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Boone Forks Region, Webster County nature center receive $300K grant

-Submitted image
A rendering of one of the indoor exhibits planned for the River's Edge Discovery Center illustrates the water cycle.

The Boone Forks Region, an Iowa Great Place that includes Webster, Hamilton and Boone counties, was recently awarded a $300,000 grant from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

The Boone Forks Region was originally designated an Iowa Great Place in 2010, recognizing Webster and Hamilton counties for their rich natural resources and outdoor recreational opportunities. In 2019, the region was re-designated an Iowa Great Place and was expanded to include Boone County.

“The mission of the Boone Forks Regional Plan is to collaborate across political and geographic boundaries for effective connection and integration of arts, heritage, nature, community and economic vitality,” Matt Cosgrove, director of Webster County Conservation, told The Messenger in 2019.

A portion of the grant — about $58,000 — will go toward an interpretive signage project on the water trails in the three counties, Cosgrove said. The interpretive signs project, partnered with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, will place new signs at the water trail access sites in the region, as well as other major recreational and tourism areas.

“The interpretive signs talk about the history, geology and cultural assets up and down the river corridors in the region,” Cosgrove said.

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This exhibit will show visitors what happens to water when it seeps into the ground.

The remaining grant funds will be used for the indoor exhibits at the River’s Edge Discovery Center currently under construction along the Des Moines River in Fort Dodge, Cosgrove said. The total cost for the exhibits is about $1.6 million, he said, so this grant will help fund a portion of that project.

The exhibits are all water-themed, Cosgrove said. The entire building will be focused on Iowa’s water resources, so the exhibits will cover the water cycle, wetlands, glaciers, and rivers and streams.

“There’s a lot of people that are involved in this regional effort,” Cosgrove said of the Boone Forks Region. “It’s the counties, the cities, the state, private entities, Iowa Central Community College, the Growth Alliance, there’s a lot of different partners throughout the region that have been a part of this project over the last 10 years and this is a nice feather in the cap for the work that that group has collectively put together.”

In all, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs awarded just over $1.5 million in grants.

“Across Iowa, these projects are connecting Iowans to arts, culture and heritage programming and their local communities’ authentic character,” Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Director Chris Kramer said. “They represent the quality of life people value today when choosing culturally vibrant places to live, work and raise their families.”

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