Ten Iowa counties are located along the Great River Road, but the significance of the scenic byway remains relatively unknown to many residents and travelers alike.
Officials, business owners and leaders from Clinton County gathered to discuss the Iowa Great River Road and its impact on the area. The concerned residents talked about the importance of the roadway at a stakeholder meeting at the new Mississippi River Eco Tourism Center in Camanche on Thursday.
The Iowa Great River Road is a segment of the 10-state, 3,000 mile long national Great River Road meandering on both sides of the Mississippi River from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.
“You have the country’s best economic, social and ecological resource,” David Dahlquist of Dahlquist Associates LLC, said. “You get to enjoy a roadway across such a great river.”
The Iowa Mississippi River Parkway Commission was awarded a National Scenic Byway Program grant in 2011 to update the aging corridor management plan and hired Dahlquist’s firm to help update the plan. Camanche is one of several stops for stakeholder meetings along the byway including meetings in Burlington, Bettendorf, McGregor, Dubuque and Muscatine. With only Muscatine left, Dahlquist said that the group of Clinton citizens has been the biggest group by far.
“It’s important to connect communities along the Iowa Great River Road,” Dahlquist said. “The experiences are so diverse and wonderful across those 326 miles.”
These meetings are part of a planning process that will take approximately two to three years and will focus on building and strengthening partnerships throughout the region and identifying innovative strategies for attracting visitors and enhancing the livability of communities along the road. The goal is to envision what the next 10 to 20 years hold for the byway.
“More people live in this scenic byway than any other in the country,” Dahlquist said. “This is also one of the most successful byways in collecting grants that make things possible like this building.”
Given the large population along the road, Dahlquist said he was shocked when he gathered visitors guides from all the cities and found only one that mentioned the byway. After his presentation, he opened the floor for discussion on what the road means for the community and how it can be used to promote the area.
The Mississippi River, bluffs, commerce and recreation were brought up as reasons for drawing tourists to the area. The importance of the river and all the opportunities it provides remained a central topic of the discussion.
“You wouldn’t believe how many people haven’t seen the Mississippi before and are so excited to see it,” Margo Hansen, of the Bickelhaupt Arboretum said. “ We take it for granted.”
Clinton Councilman John Rowland said that recreational opportunities on trails along the river have often been overlooked.
“We have plenty of biking and walking trails that would draw young active people, but they are not marketed well,” Rowland said.
Edith Pfeffer, chairwoman of the Clinton County Republicans and representative of the Iowa Mississippi River Parkway Commission, announced that next year will mark the 75th anniversary of the Great River Road. Pfeffer suggested hosting a multi-state bike ride that spans across the Great River Road stretch.
Participants discussed a variety of topics including using social media to promote the road and using the Iowa Great River Road logo on local products.
“You are part of the largest, greatest byway in the country,” Dahlquist said. “We need to make sure people are aware of this important part of this amazing roadway.”