Clive, Iowa, residents reach into their own pockets to keep a popular bike trail open for runners, walkers, and cross-country skiers.

For example, a few years ago runners told the park board and city council they wanted the snow cleared faster, recalls Jeff Thielen, parks maintenance supervisor for the 15,000-resident Des Moines suburb. "But funding was an issue. The running group donated about $5,000 so we could buy a Bobcat Toolcat 5600 [utility work machine] and snowblower attachment. Now everyone's pleased with what we've done on the trail."

"The trail is nice to have in the winter," says runner Ed Bell. "Runners don't have to worry about dodging cars."

Donating money for trail upkeep is nothing new for the running group, which sponsors an annual walk/run and donates the profits to the city. Bell currently serves as the race director.

The paved asphalt Greenbelt bike trail traverses the city, generally following the meandering Walnut Creek. Before the Toolcat 5600, users had to wait until the snow melted before getting on.

"When it snow, we have to address our other responsibilities, such as sidewalks, parking lots, and neighborhood cul-de-sacs, first," says Thielen. "Once we take care of those areas with our pickup trucks equipped with plows, we move on to the trail."

Other requirements related to trail maintenance:

  • Work doesn't begin unless there's at least 1 inch of snow
  • Work is done only during regular park district hours
  • The snowblowing attachment is for trail use only. Because the city's maintenance facility is located in a park at the start of the trail, no truck or trailer is required to get the Toolcat to the jobsite.
  • It takes the operator 14 to 16 hours to clear the 10-foot-wide trail. They plow and blow one entire side first, then the other. Portions that run into neighborhoods are cleared later.

    "The residents who use the trail appreciate being able to get back on it within a couple of days," says Thielen. "Before we had this equipment, at times they had to wait weeks for the snow to melt. With the utility work machine and snowblower - along with several other attachments we own (angle broom, auger, combination bucket, pallet fork) - we're able to provide the services the community wants." PW

    - Christina Schave ( is public relations with Two Rivers Marketing, Des Moines, Iowa.