Still a great place

Webster, Hamilton, Boone counties re-apply for Iowa Great Places

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Metal signs with trail information and historic information are a familiar sight by now throughout Webster and Hamilton Counties, thanks to an Iowa Great Places grant in 2012. The region has now re-applied to remain in the great places program, paving the way for potential grants in the future.

Plenty of officials think Webster County and the surrounding area are great places. Now, they’re hoping the state will agree.

Webster, Boone and Hamilton counties are re-applying for designation in the Iowa Great Places program.

“In 2010, Webster County and Hamilton County went together with a ‘Rivers Run Wild’ theme for designation under the Iowa Great Places program,” said Webster County Conservation Director Matt Cosgrove. “It’s a grant program.

“They are asking communities that have been involved for more than five years to seek re-designation, to show how they have made progress with their original plan and application.”

Thanks to a Great Places grant of about $90,000, the two counties were able to install metal and fiberglass signs with trail information at various trailheads, Cosgrove said.

Fort Dodge also used Great Places funds for some of the features within their roundabouts, he said.

And the county was able to list its designation in the program when applying for other grants, Cosgrove said.

“The redesignation, if we’re successful, is a five-year program again. That would make us eligible for five years of grant opportunities, and you can have roughly five projects as part of that grant over five years,” he said.

Recently, Boone has joined Hamilton and Webster counties in creating a comprehensive master plan for the Boone Forks Region, including recreational opportunities in the Des Moines and Boone River valleys.

“We are re-pitching that plan as part of this,” Cosgrove said, “to show we have continued collaboration and partnerships in the region.”

If successful, the master plan has a lot of items that could benefit from the program. A lot of it is marketing and branding for the area, he said.

“Trying to get people to branch out, instead of just doing things in Webster County, or just doing things in Boone County or Hamilton, to look at us more as a region and think about all the things that are available, with parks and festivals and cultural events and that sort of thing,” he said.

The application process may involve visits from state officials, Cosgrove said. The region should know if it’s been approved by later this summer.