DUBUQUE, Iowa (KWWL)- By the end of the year, the transformation from old John Deere testing ground to an outdoor recreation area will be complete. On Saturday afternoon, Dubuque leaders gathered to celebrate the progress made so far.
In 2018, John Deere donated more than 130 acres of woodland and prairie to the Dubuque County Conservation Board.
The donated area, located just off West John Deere Road, has been turned into the Proving Group Recreation Area.
After 2 years of construction, the project is nearing completion.
“It’s a tremendous resource for attracting young people to the area and for retaining employees,” Dubuque County Conservation Director Brian Preston said. “People from all over the state and Midwest are coming here and utilizing these trails.”
When it is completed, there will be six-and-a-half miles of mountain biking and hiking trails.
“You can come over here, bike all day and not travel many of the same trails,” Preston said. “There’s a lot of obstacles and things that are built into the trails that really challenge the rider. Some trails go from a beginner level all the way to a double Black Diamond trail, which is, is really challenging for even the most seasoned mountain bike rider.”
Along the miles of trails, there is a unique ecosystem of wildlife.
“It’s got several rare species and dangerous species of plants that you won’t find in a lot of other places throughout Iowa,” Brett Errthum, the President of Tri-State Mountain Bike Riders, said.
Errthum is also a manager for John Deere and served as the project manager for the new recreation area.
They hope it will be a good way to get people to the area.
“Dubuque has remarkable tourism infrastructure, to begin with, great restaurants, good places to go out in the evening wonderful hotels,” Errthum said. “This just adds to it that element of outdoor recreation for those people that want to get away from their trail.”
The project cost nearly a million-and-a-half dollars, the vast majority of which was donations from the community.
As officials gathered to reflect on the progress made so far Saturday afternoon, Errthum said it was hard to believe.
“At the beginning, it really was a long shot and a bit of a dream,” he said. “It was holding on to that dream and continuing to work at it that made it a reality that it is today.”
Work on the final mile of the mountain biking trail is scheduled to begin next week. The entire project should be completed by the end of the year.