City moves to improve trail

Register Reporter

Register/Anne Kazmierczak
Land adjacent to the proposed extension to the Prairie Spirit Trial leading to Riverside Park is being acquired by the city using eminent domain. The land will be developed into parkland. It currently is used as storage.

“... nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
This segment of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States establishes the basis for eminent domain, a government’s ability to purchase private property for the public good.

Iola will soon see an extension of the Prairie Spirit Trail, from Madison Avenue (U.S. Hwy. 54) to Riverside Park. Iola is using eminent domain to acquire land adjacent to the trail that is owned by Jack McFadden and currently leased by Johnny Womack and Thohoff Construction to store industrial vehicles.
Using eminent domain to acquire the property is an unusual step, said City Administrator Judy Brig-ham.
“Normally when the city acquires land, it is through mutual agreement” with the property owner, Brig-ham said. “Most any time we’ve acquired (land), it’s been at the citizen’s request.”
This time, however, it was determined the property should be secured for the greater good of all Iolans.
The city has exhausted every other means of acquiring the property, Brigham said.
“We’ve been working on it since the first of the year,” she said.
Once acquired by the city, the land will be converted to a public park and the Rail Trail extended to the entrance of Riverside Park.
“There’s still a lot of procedures that have to take place” before the city can start developing the land, Birgham said.
City Attorney Chuck Apt explained.
First, a petition must be filed in district court, he said.
Next, the land must be surveyed, appraised and an ordinance passed.
“Hopefully the survey will be completed by Sept. 22, then we’ll file a petition close at hand with that; then a timeline will be established by the court,” for completion of the appraisal, he said.
The land owner is then paid for the property.
“It’s been the commission’s intent to acquire the property for a long time,” Brigham said.
The rail bed itself is already city property, she said.
“It’s already being utilized as a trail,” Brigham said. However, improvements to the surrounding area require city ownership of the adjacent land.
Brigham said the last use of eminent domain by the city was about 12 years ago, when the Kentucky Street Improvement Project had some errors in measurement and a piece of private land was required to finish the project.
“It was not an intended eminent domain,” Brigham said.
“I’ve been here 30 years and don’t remember the last time we’ve used (intentional) eminent domain,” Brigham said.
Once completed, the project will offer a western gateway into Iola.
“Hopefully, it will attract people off the highway,” Brigham said. “I think it will be a nice public amenity.”