The Sugar Creek Greenway trail will be an approximately 4-mile long paved recreation trail in West Des Moines, Iowa.

This project comprises the western segment of the city’s Five Waters Project—which will connect to the Raccoon River, Blue Heron Lake, the City Campus pond, Jordan Creek, and Sugar Creek—in a 26.2-mile paved trail known as the Marathon Loop.

Vicinty Map

This 12-foot wide trail will generally follow Sugar Creek from its mouth at the Raccoon River to the I-80 bridge over Sugar Creek. The project will be designed for future expansion through Waukee and connections to the Central Iowa Trails system.

Concept Map

Goals

  • Design a 4-mile long trail that will be part of the West Des Moines’ Marathon Loop
  • Engage stakeholders and the public early in the process
  • Determine strategic next steps for the city of West Des Moines to implement the plan

Challenges

  • Natural resources protection and management
  • Right-of-way acquisition
  • Budget

Solutions

  • Floodplain and natural resources analysis to economically minimize impacts
  • Meetings with private property owners to discuss potential impacts and address concerns 
  • Develop a project phasing and prioritization plan for construction
  • Segment Map


Natural Resources

The Sugar Creek Greenway trail will be designed with the surrounding natural resources in mind.

Threatened and Endangered Species

“Critical habitat” is a term that comes from the Endangered Species Act. It’s defined by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as “specific geographic areas that contain features essential to the conservation of an endangered or threatened species and that may require special management and protection.” In Iowa, this is often considered the trees and riparian (i.e. streambank and shoreline) areas that are known habitat for certain bat and bird species.

A designation of critical habitat does not mean that development is impossible in that area; however, special precautions must be taken to minimize the potential impact to these species, such as clearing trees during the winter when bats are less active.

Streams and Wetlands

According to the Clean Water Act, wetlands are areas that must include three important features: hydric soils, wetland vegetation, and wetland hydrology. Some wetlands are included on the National Wetland Inventory. A wetland delineation that follows the 1987 Corps of Engineers Wetland Delineation Manual must be completed by a trained professional for development projects.

Hydric Soils

Soils that contain hydric components provide an initial indication of possible wetland locations. As defined by the USACE and EPA, “Wetlands are areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions.” By locating areas with potentially hydric soils, field-based work can be focused on investigating those identified areas and performing field-based determinations of wetland boundaries.