Great River Road.jpg

Iowa's Great River Road follows the Mississippi River. Locally, Highway 52 near Sabula and US 67 carry the distinction.

Ben Jacobson/Clinton Herald
Associated Press

During a preparatory expedition down Iowa’s Great River Road, David Dahlquist of Dahlquist Associates LLC, a Des Moines-based consultant firm, was a little alarmed to discover local publicity for the scenic byway was lacking.

Twelve of 13 different tourism guides picked up in communities along the 326-mile corridor failed to mention the roadway, which is part of a nearly 3,000-mile long network that stretches the length of the Mississippi River.

“It used to be highly important and highly promoted,” Dahlquist said. “Now we’ve just sort of seen it slip. ...This is a national resource, a national attraction, yet we’re finding that many of the local river communities are not (promoting it).”

The road is so important, Dahlquist said, that the site of an April 12 Great River Road Stakeholder meeting, Camanche’s Eco Tourism Center, may not even exist without it. By virtue of being located near the Great River Road, deemed a National Scenic Byway in 2000, grant funding sources were able to be obtained for construction that would not have been otherwise available.

“That’s a very good example of a project that might not have happened had it not been for this federal program,” Dahlquist said.

Stakeholders, i.e. community members, groups, or organizations with an interest in the promotion of the road, are invited to attend one or both of two information sessions on April 12. The 90-minute sessions, scheduled for 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., will begin with an informational presentation from Dahlquist, who has been retained by the National Mississippi River Parkway Commission to facilitate the meetings.

Afterwards, Dahlquist and members of the Parkway Commission will gather feedback from the audience, which will be used to update a long-term control plan for the roadway. Dahlquist said that to retain the distinction of National Scenic Byway, the NMRPC has to update a Corridor Management Plan that provides guidelines for the promotion and preservation of the Great River Road.

“The meetings are intended to share some information from our side about the background of the Great River Road, and to seek people’s thoughts on what the Great River Road means to them,” Dahlquist said.

Dahlquist said this plan will reexamine the exact route of the Great River Road, the number and utilization of intrinsic resources, such as opportunities for outdoor recreation, and will identify management strategies. The plan will also help determine marketing strategies, including the identification of river road “stories” that should be told.

Clinton Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Marsha Smith said her organization plans to attend the meetings, and help Dahlquist and NMRPC members determine ways to utilize the roadway for maximum benefit. She hopes other local residents come out as well to help gain some appreciation for the byway, the value of which can be overlooked.

“I think people forget,” Smith said. “They see the signs, but what does it really mean to them? I’m not sure.”

Dahlquist said the NMRPC has already identified two meetings into a six-meeting schedule some immediate actions that could benefit the Great River Road. But he said that completion of the Corridor Management Plan is not something that will be rushed, and will likely take two or three years. The important thing, he said, is doing it right.

“(We want to) have more people enjoy (the Great River Road), and realize that it is a resource that is available to every Iowan,” he said.

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