The City of Council Bluffs is celebrating the completion of the new FIRST AVE trail and the Cochran Park renovations on Friday, May 19, with a ribbon cutting at 11 a.m. and a community party at 6 p.m. (See attached media alert for 11 a.m. ribbon cutting.)
"May is National Bike Month, and May 19 is National Bike to Work Day, a fitting time to celebrate our newly finished FIRST AVE trail, which offers a convenient way for our residents to ride bikes for fun, fitness, or to commute," said Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh. "FIRST AVE and the improvements to Cochran Park are nothing short of amazing, and this event marks the start of an engaging and active new public space."
The public is invited to attend the Cochran Park Grand Opening celebration on Friday, May 19, at 6:00 p.m. This family-friendly event is free and open to the public. Festivities begin at 6:00 p.m. with live music by Andre VanderVelde, a home run derby on the new baseball field, pickleball lessons on the new courts, 3x3 soccer on the new mini-pitch, a live mural demonstration, plus face painting and prizes! At dusk, the Council Bluffs Public Library will host an interactive outdoor screening of "THE BAD GUYS," complete with a prop kit for kids at the movie while supplies last. Free hotdogs, chips, and sodas for the first 150 people! Additional food vendors will be on-site, with concessions available for purchase.
Cochran Park (100 South 21st St) is approximately three acres in size and sits along FIRST AVE between 21st Street and 22nd Street. Thanks to a generous donation from PowerTech, a new playground has been installed. The new play elements offer climbing areas, treehouse-like platforms, shade structures, and tube slides, all with a new rubberized safety surface. Other Cochran Park improvements include new seating areas, a new baseball field, two new basketball hoops, four new pickleball courts, and a mini-pitch for 3v3 soccer. Additionally, Cochran Park is home to an "Art in the Park" sign created by Jeffery L Day in 2015.
"With the FIRST AVE trail running right through Cochran Park, this area serves as a hub of recreation and entertainment for people of all ages," said Council Bluffs Parks and Recreation Director Vincent Martorello. "This area offers residents a way to connect with nature and encourages healthy lifestyles."
FIRST AVE, a former rail corridor vacated in 2013, is located one block south of West Broadway, the city's main thoroughfare. Roughly 60% of Council Bluffs residents live within one mile of this corridor. The West Broadway Corridor Plan (adopted July 2015) proposed transforming the former rail line into a multi-modal corridor featuring trails, transit, and redevelopment. The corridor was designed with the trail offset to the south, preserving space for a future modern streetcar connection to Omaha.
The FIRST AVE trail presents a unique user experience. Conducive to walking, biking, and micro-mobility options, trail amenities include lighting, landscaping, public spaces, and trail plazas, making the corridor a linear park, not just a trail. Trail plazas are fashioned with an industrial pallet inspired by the former rail line featuring shaded seating, open green spaces, and bicycle parking.
"First Avenue is not just a trail," said Brenda Mainwaring, President and CEO of the Iowa West Foundation. "It's a community connector that will engage the surrounding neighborhoods with unique features, activities, and events, all of which will also boost local businesses. It's exactly the kind of project Iowa West Foundation supports, an amenity for our community to enjoy while also attracting new growth in the region."
FIRST AVE is part of the new Great American Rail Trail, a signature project of the nation's largest trails organization, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, dedicated to connecting people and communities through a nationwide network of public trails, many from former rail lines. The Great American Rail-Trail connects 145+ existing rail trails, greenways, and other multi-use paths spanning more than 3,700 miles from Washington DC to Washington State.
The FIRST AVE multi-modal corridor enhances the operation of West Broadway, makes an essential link in the trail system, creates an opportunity for a transit link to Downtown Omaha, and provides the opportunity to redevelop obsolete industrial properties. Additionally, the City of Council Bluffs is working with local business owners to establish a series of murals along the trail that will enhance the trail experience.
"The park and the trail are officially open, but we're just getting started," said Mayor Walsh. "We are working with the community to bring a variety of activities to the area. Soon, you'll find public art, murals, historical markers, and a robust calendar of events along FIRST AVE. Thanks to our generous donors for helping make Cochran Park a vibrant and lively public space."
For more information about FIRST AVE, visit www.councilbluffs-ia.gov/2347. For event updates, find the Cochran Park Grand Opening on Facebook @CityofCB.