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Des Moines  Jan. 8, 2015

The Raccoon River Valley Trail, which ties together three counties and 14 communities in west central Iowa, on Thursday was recognized as one of five new "Iowa Great Places."  And the honor came with notification of a $200,000 state grant that will help build the major public art installation being planned at the Waukee traiilhead.  That serves as the southeastern gateway to the RRVT from the trails coming out of the Des Moines metro area.

The designation and grant are "a huge shot in the arm," said Jim Miller, chairperson of the Public Art Committee which has been spearheading the project for the City of Waukee, the Waukee Arts Council and the Raccoon River Valley Trail Association.

The grant means that the committee has now raised more than $600,000 toward the $1.01-million cost of the massive "Waukee Railroad Pergola -- in the shadow of the rails."

Designed by acclaimed sculptor David Dahlquist and his team at RDG Planning & Design in Des Moines, the colorful "pergola"  structure will be 340 feet long, with a canopy that will be 15 feet tall and 18 feet wide.  But there is also a shade sculpture, a building with public restrooms that is already in place, a parking area, and a "colonade" of lighted "bollards" along U.S. Highway 6.  You can read more about the installation -- and how its artistic theme will be stretched the whole length of the RRVT -- in this story: http://raccoonrivervalleytrail.org/blog/2014/08/07/now-we-start-considering-public-art-installations-on-the-rrvt/.

An artist’s portrayal of what “Waukee Railroad Pergola – in the shadow of the rails” will look like in the evening light at the Waukee trailhead of the Raccoon River Valley Trail.  (Illustration by RDG Planning & Design)

The announcement was made Thursday in Des Moines by Mary Cownie, director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, which oversees the 10-year-old Iowa Great Places program.  The recommendation for the RRVT recognition and grant was made by the "Iowa Great Places Citizen Advisory Board."  It was one of six awards announced Thursday for projects in cities and towns across the state, with a total of $1.3 million in grants being made to those projects.

"The Department of Cultural Affairs is committed to empowering Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities," Cownie said. "These communites awarded funding recognize their own unique sense of place, and we are proud to invest in projects that foster economic growth and enhance the cultural identity of Iowa."

Nick Glew, of Marion, chairperson of the Iowa Great Places Citizen Advisory Board, said that group "was truly impressed by the local and regional collaborations these projects demonstrate and the private sector investment they are leveraging."

Randy Jensen, of Des Moines and Lake Panorama, another member of the Public Art Committee working on the RRVT project, said "the completion of this project along with the Iowa Great Places designation will certainly yield significant cultural, recreational, health and economic benefits for the region and statewide -- now and well into the future."

The other projects and communities recognized Thursday were the Indian Creek Nature Center in Linn County outside Cedar Rapids; the Sixth Avenue Corridor in Des Moines; the City of Grinnell for Central Park improvements and enhancements to its downtown entrance; the town of Manning for a trail and park project; and the City of Fort Dodge for additional work on the Historic Downtown Gateway.