Tag Archives: Linn County

The Missing Link in Local Trails

The Cedar Valley Nature Trail is an amazing recreational trail here in eastern Iowa.  Travelling from just north of Cedar Rapids in Hiawatha over 50 miles north to Waterloo it is justifiably a gem for those of us addicted to two wheeled recreation.

Notice I said travelling north.  To the south things are decidedly less amazing.  Paved trails exist throughout Cedar Rapids and extend as far south as the small town of Ely.  In Ely things peter out as you approach the Linn County-Johnson County line.  I say peter out when what I really mean to say is end abruptly.  As in the trail literally comes to an end at dirt with nothing more.

Plans have been in the discussion and preparation stages for what seems like a decade.  Now, this spring—despite the horrible weather—construction has finally begun!

It will take two years or more to complete.  Bet on the “or more” as delays are almost inevitable with projects like this and Johnson County is notorious for meddlesome parties to become involved in delaying projects for spurious reasons.  Nonetheless, the future is bright as this section of trail south of Ely into Solon will connect the trail systems of Cedar Rapids and Iowa City for the first time in forever.


You can take a look at the trail map of the Iowa City-Coralville-North Liberty area and imagine a purple line extending from the intersection of Highway 382 and Ely Road NE into the town of Ely.  Now merge that with the trail map of the Cedar Rapids-Hiawatha-Marion area to get an idea of what a combined system will look like.

It is my hope that this combination becomes a catalyst to complete the connections to orphaned sections of trails throughout the area.

Now, if spring would actually get here we could really get to riding.  How bad is it?  It’s April 19th and there was measurable snow on the ground this morning.  Seriously, what is this?  Minnesota?

Friday Linkage 9/22/2017

It is officially fall.  It is time to get the skis out and waxed for the upcoming season.  It is time to fully embrace “sweater weather” and pumpkin spice whatever…oh wait, it is ninety degrees in eastern Iowa today.  Damn, I guess summer is not going to release its satanic grip quite yet.

On to the links…

Key Stories for Understanding the Monuments Memo—Get ready for the great environmental legal battle when Trump actually takes these recommendations and moves forward with bad policy.  Like spoiled brats and bullies the Trump administration is acting reflexively against anything that they do not like regardless of the consequences.

These Companies Support the Paris Agreement. They Also Support Climate Deniers.—I do not care what you say publicly.  If you support climate denial in any way you are part of the problem regardless of what you do with your other corporate efforts.  It would be better to do nothing at all than to secretly support these scam artists who are obfuscating the most important challenge of our time.

Cedar Rapids says They’re Seeing More Residents Go Solar in Linn County—I did not participate in this program when I had a solar photovoltaic system installed on my roof, but it is exciting to see that there is a lot of interest out there in going solar.  Every system is like a little dagger into the black heart of coal.

US Celebrates Record 29% Drop In Utility-Scale Solar Costs — But Tariff Cloud Looms—Everyone claims to love a free market right up until the moment that it impacts their pocketbook.  Solar prices have gotten so low so fast because of globalization.

Why Wind and Solar Won’t Save Us—Reducing demand should be the primary focus, but once we have reduced demand producing clean energy to satisfy what remains is imperative.

Trump’s ‘No Friend’ of Clean Energy. Here are 3 Reasons to Invest Anyway—The investment community does not care about the politics anymore.  They see clean energy as a sound investment going forward.  Given the cost curves and public sentiment you have to wonder how long coal can hang on.

The Solar Boom In The Middle East—The Middle East is a perfect and odd place for solar to be successful.  It is sunny and there is a lot of open space, but it is also blessed with cheap fossil fuels.

Tesla Powerwall 2: An In-Depth Review—Changes in behavior are always interesting.  As someone who wants to generate all his electricity needs from the sixteen panels on the my roof I can tell you that since I have installed my solar system I think twice about using the air conditioner, which is the last remaining major discretionary electrical appliance in my home.

Regenerative Solutions for the Future of Humanity—It is not enough to preserve what we have not destroyed.  We need to regenerate what we have degraded if we are to live a fulfilling life as a species on this planet.

What a Difference a Week Makes

What a difference a week of rain makes.  This was the drought picture for the state of Iowa last week per the U.S. Drought Monitor:

IA_dm_130409After a very wet week, this is what things look like this week:

IA_dm_130416The real dramatic change is how much of the state is out of “extreme” drought.  Keep in mind that this picture does not include the rain that we got all through Tuesday night and Wednesday.  Things are really wet right now.

How wet?  Roads are being closed because water is rushing over them.  Streams and creeks have broken their banks and flooded low lying areas.  Heck, Coralville Reservoir’s levels are rising to such a level that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had to assuage everyone’s fears about the flood of 2008 happening again.

If the rains keep coming we are going to swing from extreme drought last year to springtime flooding this year.  Climate change anyone?



We’re Outta’ Here!

It’s official.  Linn County, where I live in eastern Iowa, is no longer in a state of drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor:

IA_dm_130409The areas in white are considered to be “free” of drought.  How free is another question considering how persistent drought can be.

This picture will probably get better as Tuesday was the cutoff for data samples and it has rained across much of the state for the entire week.

The turnaround has been quite nice over the past few weeks as actual rain has fallen with a steady drumbeat.  Granted, the rain has also been accompanied by low temperatures so it is making for some miserable days.  Take the good with the bad and all.

Actually, I think the cooler temperatures are at play in helping us get out of drought because the soil does not dry out as fast when it is forty degrees versus seventy degrees.  Last spring it was ridiculously warm and sunny in March and April.  I am talking about seventy degrees and full sun almost every day it seemed like.

That weather trend continued into the summer where it was hot and sunny for many days on end.  It ended up that we just baked all summer because the rains did not come.

Friday Linkage 11/16/2012

It’s good more than a week after the presidential election to wake up and realize all of the things that could have been different with a…shudder…President Mitt Romney.  Alas, that is something that we will have to confine to the parts of our soul where nightmares hide.  It’s the same place I have consigned Karl Rove to following his SuperPAC getting “monkey stomped.”

Rachel Maddow really lays it out for anyone who is interested.

On to the links…

Four African Girls Build Pee Powered Generator—This story has gotten a lot of run, but I love it nonetheless.  Maybe there is hope for us humans after all.

U.S. May be Top Oil Producer—If this is true than the “drill baby, drill” faction of the American public has to very excited.  Oh wait, those people never get their facts straight anyway.  Oh well, they pretty much got “monkey stomped” this past week so I will let it slide.

Pricing Carbon: Where We Are and Where We May be Going—The only way to systematically attack the problem of carbon contributing to global warming is to put a price on it, so that economic models can account for it.  Otherwise, it’s just an externality.

Post-Fossil Fuel Economy Already Emerging?—I do not know how much of this has to do with the recent recession or with an actual transition, but it’s an interesting idea nonetheless.

Algae Based Fuel on Sale in Bay Area—One step closer to powering my car on pond scum.  Scum baby, scum!

Voters Approve 81% of Conservation Ballot Initiatives—Speaking of getting “monkey stomped,” the people who hate the environment must really feel lonely in their Koch embrace because most people actually want to preserve the natural world and enjoy something pristine.  Imagine that?

Tackling Solar Costs from Every Angle—The real challenge facing the widespread adoption of residential or small scale commercial solar is the balance of system costs.  The price of solar panels themselves are no longer the impediment, but rather all the other stuff including permits that are required to start generating free electricity from the sun.

The Muddy Minnesota River Comes Back to Life—A real success story of the Clean Water Act and the action of state government has to be Minnesota’s efforts to clean up its river.  The story about the Minnesota River is the latest success story.  Skol!

How to Grow All Your Food on One Tenth of an Acre—This seems like a little bit too intensive, but maybe there are some lessons that can be applied to getting food out of all these suburban lots dotting the United States.

Industrial Scale Hog Farms Screw Farmers and Small Towns—Industrial hog farms or CAFOs are pretty much one of the worst things on the planet for everyone involved except for the big meat packers who love the system.  Everyone gets screwed.  Thankfully Linn County, where I live in Iowa, rejected the latest attempt to build a new CAFO in the county.

The Potential Impact of Local Food

Yesterday I wrote about the pending opening of the NewBo City Market and it got me thinking about the potential impact of local food.

“Shop local” is a mantra for a lot of people and it is a great way to help ensure that we have vibrant communities of businesses tied to the local economy.  Otherwise, everything will just be abandoned on the drive to WalMart.  Joy.

However, the next step is to not just “shop local” but to actually “buy locally made products.”  Why does this matter?  Even if you purchase goods from a local merchant, it is likely that those goods came from somewhere else not necessarily tied to your local economy.  In economic terms this is called leakage, as in your dollars are leaking from the local economy.  Granted, dollars are probably leaking from a lot of other local economies into your own but there are no guarantees.

Farmers markets and public markets, like the NewBo City Market, represent an opportunity to bypass to possibility of leakage because you are buying goods directly from local producers.  This puts the dollars in the hands of local producers without the loss of what a “middleman” would charge for distribution, etc.  But, really, how much of an impact can spending locally produce?

In Linn County there are ~214K people living in ~85K households with a median household income of ~$54K.  If each household could direct $10 of their food spend to local food merchants it would equal more than $44 MILLION dollars injected into the local economy.  At the median household income that level of spending could directly support over 818 households or just under 1% of the county’s households.

The local multiplier effect compounds the impact of this spending even more.  Depending upon the study a local merchant usually returns $52-58 to the local economy while the larger national merchants usually return $17-33.  At the low end, you are getting a three times return on the money in the local economy if it is spent with local merchants.  So, as the dollars you spent stay in the local economy the impact can be multiplied if those dollars continue to be spent with other local merchants.  Check out this study from the Idie Impact Study Series for a tidy summation of the impacts of local purchasing.

I don’t want to sound like some clown on late night television telling you to feed the children for the price of a cup of coffee, but $10 a week does not sound like too much to have such a great impact.  Plus, you can avoid shopping at WalMart where your soul is likely to get stolen or, at the very least, crushed by the depression that oozes from the bare concrete floor.

At Last!

On Saturday, I started my bicycle ride like so many others this summer with a short jaunt north on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail from Robins.  All summer the CVNT has been closed for paving north of County Home Road.

Not today!  The signs announcing the trail was closed were down and the barricades were removed.  It was smooth sailing all the way to Schultz Road where the old crushed limestone trail resumed.  I do not know if this was the official opening of the trail because snow fence was still in place along the trail in spots and the final grading does not appear to be done.

My hats go off to all of the people behind this project because it enhances one of the true gems we have for outdoor recreation in eastern Iowa.  Ideally, the trail runs from Waterloo/Cedar Falls through Cedar Rapids and finishes in Ely.  There is a bridge out near Brandon due to the floods in 2008 so the route is not contiguous right now.  Nonetheless, it is a great way to spend an afternoon on two wheels.

Currently, the Linn County Trails Association is conducting a survey to rank the priorities for future projects.  My hope is the the “orphan” sections of trails in the area can be connected to form a world class system of trails.  For the moment, I will enjoy what I have.