SIOUX CITY | The next two years may elicit rejoicing from many Siouxland runners, walkers and cyclists.
That's because Sioux City currently has nearly a half-dozen trail projects in the works during that time period, planned to provide vital connections between some oft-traveled segments of its trail system.
The projects in Sioux City will join a pair of trail connection projects slated to move forward just across the river in South Sioux City in the next two years.
While the city has in recent years made trail connections a point of focus, parks and recreation officials say the number of trails currently in the works are unprecedented in recent years.
"This will be probably the best year ever for trails in Sioux City," said Sioux City Parks and Recreation Director Matt Salvatore. "I don’t think we’ll ever see another year where we’ll be doing five to six trails."
The most anticipated project will be the long-awaited connection of two trails along Sioux City's riverfront. Slated for construction to begin in 2018, the new trail will span the 1.5-mile gap between the Chautauqua Park and Chris Larsen Park trails, establishing 12 miles of continuous trail along the Missouri River.
The $3.3 million project received two significant funding boosts in 2016, benefiting from a $1.25 million grant from the Missouri River Historical Development Board in May and a $650,000 grant from the Iowa Transportation Commission in mid-October.
Other connections to be completed this year include the second phase of the Big Sioux River dike trail, which will extend from the Riverside Aquatic Center to Florence Avenue for seven-tenths of a mile along the riverfront.
On Sioux City's north side, a nearly half-mile trail piece will connect the Floyd River Trail to the Outerbelt Drive Trail, including a bridge crossing railroad tracks in Leeds. Another new trail at Sertoma Park will loop around Cone Park, the all-seasons park slated to open in December 2017.
On the other side of Outer Drive, a .18-mile trail near Clark School will connect to the west arm of the Outerbelt Drive Trail.
A privately funded trail expected to be built in upcoming years along Christy Road near the new Summit Apartments, UnityPoint Sunnybrook Medical Plaza and proposed Overlook Development could also undergo construction sometime during the year, Salvatore said.
In South Sioux City, two trails will add about a mile to the trail system. The first, completely funded by Nebraska's federally funded Safe Routes to School program, will connect Covington Elementary School to the city's trail system.
South Sioux City Parks and Recreation Director Gene Maffit said the project, slated to begin later this year, brings the city closer to its goal of connecting all schools and parks to its trail system.
"I think when that project gets done we’ll have only one school that’s not connected," Maffit said.
A second trail, funded 80 percent by the Nebraska Department of Roads and 20 percent by South Sioux City, will be a lighted trail running from Siouxland Country Estates, crossing U.S. Highway 20 and connecting with existing trail. That project will begin next year.