After nearly four years in the making, the Lizard Creek Water Trail was officially dedicated to the community as a state-designated water trail Friday.
The dedication of the 13-mile trail through Webster County brought the total number of water trail miles to 916 in Iowa, Todd Robertson, outreach coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources River Program, said during the program attended by about 40 people.
"Iowa is becoming close to the top in the nation in water trails," Robertson said. "People are really looking at our water trail system. They're coming from other states just to paddle our water trails."
Lizard Creek has been a popular place for local paddlers to take to the water for many years, and the designation of the waterway as an official trail and the addition of four public access areas along the route will make the creek a destination for paddlers from around Iowa and the surrounding states, Robertson said.
"If you've never paddled The Lizard, I'd encourage it," said Robertson. "It is gorgeous and there is a lot of wildlife to see."
Ryan Maehl, Fort Dodge Parks and Recreation administrator, said the designation of the water trail is just one of many new improvements and attractions to be brought to Fort Dodge in recent years.
"In the past 10 years we have done so much to improve the quality of life," Maehl said. "This is one way that we are getting out and getting back into nature."
The project has been a collaborative effort between the DNR, Fort Dodge Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department, Webster County Conservation and local paddlers.
"This is something that one agency cannot accomplish by themselves," said Maehl. "We've really seen the change and as it has progressed it has been beyond belief."
Maehel said the project would not have been possible without the donation of land by landowners Ken and Jane Rasch, Joseph and Sue Cunningham, and Tim and Michelle Lentsch, all of whom now have an access point on their property.
"Without land donations this may not have happened," said Pat Sheehan, a park ranger for Webster County Conservation.
Clark Fletcher, a Webster County supervisor and local paddler, said the access at the Des Moines River near Phinney Park, which includes a trail, parking lot and picnic shelter, will be an attraction for many paddlers.
"The majority of people from out of town will come through this area and will see this access and parking lot," said Fletcher. "We have been working on this for four years and if it weren't for those who saw the potential we wouldn't have this today."
John Wenck, DNR water trails coordinator, said the Lizard Creek Water Trail will create recreational opportunities as well as a new way to get fit.
"Hopefully this is a place kids can enjoy, grow up and have fond memories of," Wenck said. "There is a great connection here to getting healthy and fit and getting outdoors. People can bring their kids out here and they won't even know they are exercising. They'll being having such a blast on the water."
Robertson said he has one catch phrase that he believes has helped increase the popularity of paddling Iowa's waterways.
"Iowa has doubled the national average of paddlers," said Robertson. "There are now 350,000 paddlers in Iowa; that was unheard of 10 years ago. Take a friend and go paddling has been my No. 1 phrase for a few years, and I think it has helped."