WAUKEE, Iowa -- For Patrick O’Bryan, a mild winter in Iowa means hitting the Raccoon River Valley Trail much earlier than usual.
"A perfect day for a January ride in Iowa," said O'Bryan.
From the trail head in Waukee, northwest to Jefferson and a dozen more communities west of Des Moines, its 89 miles takes users on a scenic joyride through 14 communities and three counties. O'Bryan said, "It is absolutely beautiful.”
Unlike most other trails, users here are not supposed to just hop on and enjoy the Raccoon River Valley Trail freely. Mike Wallace, executive director of the Dallas County Conservation Board said, "It is $10 a year or $2 a day, so not a lot but the little amount brought in does help significantly.”
Like January temperatures in the 40s, users say the help is noticeable. Greg France, another RRVT trail user and salesperson at Bike World in West Des Moines said, "It is to keep those trails in nice shape. The $10 goes 100 percent to the various counties that the trail goes through for trail maintenance.”
It goes toward maintenance for pot holes, cracks and overgrown vegetation.
"Sometimes it can be dangerous. Sometimes it can cause damage, so maintaining our trails are just as important as maintaining our highways,” France said.
They are issues most people are proud to pay for rather than see it deteriorate. "They blow all the debris off the trail which makes it extremely nice," O'Bryan said.
If users weren’t able to purchase a permit ahead of time, yellow tubes are placed throughout the trail system containing daily and annual passes with a receipt included. While not strictly enforced, authorities are patrolling making sure fees are paid in full.
"It’s not like they are going to throw you against the side of their truck and frisk you for the money, but I’ve seen them collecting two dollars from people," said France. It is a fee that creates a cycle every year of paying it forward says France, "They appreciate the quality of life that our biking trails bring to our area.”
You can fill out a permit form at any of the trail head locations or Bike World stores. Users 17 years old and under are free.