Conservation

Great Western Trail Tunnel

Polk County Conservation was approached by the City of West Des Moines with plans to realign SE County Line Rd. The plans provide a tunnel for the Great Western Trail under the proposed new SE County Line Rd. alignment. The trail will remain on the same alignment. However, some trees will need to be removed during construction of the new tunnel.

The existing trees that line both sides of the trail are trees with low ecological value; most are volunteer trees of box elder, mulberry and siberian elms. However, these trees are appreciated by trail users for the shade they provide, the buffering from the sounds from the nearby street, buffering from the westerly winds often encountered on this trail, and these tree offer a sense of peacefulness within nature that trail users expect on trails.

It will be Polk County Conservation’s priority to reestablish a tree lined trail as quick as nature allows. West Des Moines has agreed to pay Polk County Conservation to reestablish the tree canopy along the section of trail they are impacting. A robust planting plan was prepared by staff that focuses on planting native, fast-growing canopy trees, evergreen trees, and dense shrubs strategically placed to help buffer the trail. It will take time for these trees to grow, and the best efforts have been made to reestablish the tree canopy the best way possible.

Tree removals will be occurring over the next several weeks with the new tunnel anticipated to be complete fall 2022. The following is currently on the list to be planted:

  • TREES: Silver Maple, Eastern Cottonwood, American Sycamore, Hackberry, American Linded, Eastern White Pine, White Oak, Burr Oak, and Northern Red Oak

  • SHRUBS: American Hawthorn, Nannyberry, Serviceberry, Eastern Redbud, and Silky Dogwood

  • UNDERSTORY: Native Prairie, Mix of Native Grasses/Sedges, and Wildflowers.