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Trail Provides Access to Beauty and Economic Boost in Northeast Iowa

December 21, 2021

Iowa is known for its breathtaking beauty – rolling farmland, shaded woods, and tall prairie grasses adorned with wildflowers. The sights and sounds of nature create a serene experience for all to enjoy. One organization is working to make the experience more accessible through a recreational trails system. 

Prairie Springs Recreational Trail (PSRT) Association was established 20 years ago to bring outdoor health and fitness activities to the Cresco area by trail. The three-mile paved trail is accessed from downtown Cresco at Balk Park to Vernon Springs, winding along the Prairie’s Edge Nature Center next to the Turkey River. 

Today, the PSRT Association is working to join forces of Howard and Winneshiek Counties, and the three cities of Cresco, Ridgeway, and Calmar, to provide scenic and multi-purpose trails to improve the quality of life in these rural areas. The PSRT Association is also part of a regional economic development collaboration to connect trails in northeast Iowa and, eventually, to neighboring counties in Minnesota. 

“A strong regional collaboration with the support from CFNEIA has taken our crazy dream of expanding trails in northeast Iowa and Minnesota and made it a reality. In rural Iowa we couldn’t do this without regional partners,” said Spiff Slifka, secretary of the Prairie Springs Recreational Trail Association. 

In the summer of 2021, PSRT Association along with local donors, John and Jo Ann O’Byrne and Amy Bouska, established both permanent and quasi endowment funds with the Howard County Community Foundation, an affiliate of the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa. The funds will support the long-term needs for the trails as well as a capital campaign to join adjacent trails at the Minnesota state line. 

“We are grateful to the O’Byrne family and Amy Bouska for providing such generous gifts to establish the endowment fund,” said Tim Wolter, president of the PSRT Association. “Creating this sustainable source of funding helps us with the ongoing upkeep and beautification of the trail that many people utilize and enjoy.” 

At its Celebration of Community event in November, the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa awarded PSRT Association a $30,000 mission fulfillment grant. A portion of the funding, $20,000, will be used to support the rural economic development project. The remaining funding, $10,000, will be used as an incentive grant to the permanent endowment fund when it reaches gifts of $90,000.  

“The funding from CFNEIA is not just a grant to our organization,” said Spiff. “It’s about making a difference in our rural communities and we are humbled.”