Pony Hollow Trail fundraiser reaches goal with help from local businesses

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FreedomBank contributed $4,000 toward the Pony Hollow Trail extension project. Pictured are Jennifer Cowsert, Ean Popenhagen, Caty Phillips, Nick Moser, Larry Stone, Dave Asche, Michael Higgins, Kenny Slocum, Jenna Pollock, Daryl Landsgard, Kathy Mueller, Abbey Harkrader, Krista Fischer, Rachel Franks, Sandy Walter, Sydney Moser, Clarissa DeShaw, Julie Dahling, Jennifer Liddiard, Paula Ehrhardt, Sara Hertrampf and Dana Burns. (Photo by Willis Patenaude)

Central State Bank and CJ Moyna & Sons teamed up to contribute $8,000 toward the Pony Hollow Trail extension project. Among those who participated in the check presentation were Central State Bank representatives Michael Erickson, Pete Purman, Brandon Friedlein, Kaitlyn Vickerman, Kandi Deshaw, Kayleigh White and Mark Groom, along with Elkader City Administrator Jennifer Cowsert, conservation board representatives Larry Stone, Dave Asche, Daryl Landsgard, Molly Scherf, Kenny Slocum, Nick Moser, Ean Popenhagen and Jenna Pollock and Justin Augustyn and Cody Dreyer representing Moyna's.

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


The Pony Hollow Trail extension project recently reached another milestone, as several local businesses came together to fund the project beyond the 65 percent threshold Clayton County Conservation needed to apply for Enhance Iowa’s CAT (Community Attraction and Tourism) Grant. The grant could bring in an additional $220,000, or 20 percent of the total project cost, which is estimated to be just under $1.1 million. 


Jenna Pollock, executive director of the Clayton County Conservation Board, indicated the CAT grant “recognizes the importance of opportunity when it comes to helping people appreciate the environment.” 


“Northeast Iowa is a unique island of wildness in a sea of urban and agricultural development. Trails like Pony Hollow and the proposed extension give people a chance to see Iowa like they never have before,” Pollock added. 


The purpose of the extension is to add a mile of paved trail, creating the first segment of a two-mile looped trail connection between the existing termini of the Pony Hollow Trail, which will be completed with phase one. Pollock explained the trail connects with several historic sites within Elkader and connects to other recreational facilities such as trails, campgrounds, fishing and paddling accesses along the Turkey River and Robert’s Creek, as well as Elkader’s Main Street and historic district. 


“This project is heavily favored and supported by the local community as an integral safety improvement [and] trails that connect trail users to other amenities, and extended trails create a return on investment through a variety of economic metrics,” Pollock added. 


Currently, the project has raised over $705,000 through a combination of grants, fundraising and private donations, but with the deadline fast approaching for the CAT grant application, Clayton County Conservation needed a little help. That’s where local businesses entered the picture. 


Among them was FreedomBank. CEO and President of FreedomBank Kathy Mueller acknowledged the critical role played by visionaries such as Clayton County Conservation Board’s team in transforming Clayton County and Elkader into thriving tourist destinations and desirable places to call home.


Mueller expressed that the Pony Hollow Trail extension project is an excellent example of how FreedomBank is committed to empowering the community. 


“We contributed $4,000 as matching funds to increase the impact of our donation. The seed sown through this match is an investment for future success in the county by enhancing opportunities for recreation and conservation,” Mueller said. 


Another $8,000 came from a team effort by CJ Moyna & Sons and Central State Bank (CSB). According to CSB Market President for Elkader and Marquette, Michael Erickson, he received a phone call from Justin Augustyn, president of Mobile Track Solutions, and John Moyna, owner of CJ Moyna & Sons, about teaming up to push Clayton County Conservation “across the finish line” and provide the remaining funds necessary to complete the project. 


“We’re happy that Central State Bank and CJ Moyna & Sons teamed up together and can make this happen,” Erickson said.


Augustyn said the motivation behind the donation was due to being “big believers in Elkader.” 


“We not only work in Elkader, but we live in Elkader and we’re all looking forward to having this trail as a compliment to the greater part of the community,” Augustyn added.


Augustyn believes the extension will benefit the community in multiple ways, including expanding the town’s horizons and bringing people from outside Clayton County into Elkader. 


A larger goal is not just bringing them to the area, but keeping them here. Amenities such as the trail and “having a lively downtown” are important to “attract talent to live in Elkader,” Augustyn said.


The Pony Hollow Trail extension is slated for construction in 2025.

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