Seven areas of the state were named "Great Places" today during a ceremony at the state capitol in Des Moines. Appanoose County, Davenport, Decorah, Charles City, Council Bluffs, Perry and Valley Junction in West Des Moines become part of the program where they partner with the state to improve them as places to live and visit. Governor Chet Culver praised the new great places but admitted he has not included additional funding for the program in his budget proposal for next year.
Davenport Mayor Ed Winborn says this is another big boost to the eastern Iowa city. He says they’re very excited, and says earlier this year they were named the most livable small city in the United States, and being named a great place in Iowa is another feather in their cap. Winborn says they have lots of plans to keep improving their city — with development of the riverfront on top of the list.
Winborn says they would like to put in a splash park and have two other parks they’re working on in the redevelopment.
Perry Mayor Vivi Shirley is pleased her city won the designation. "I think it’s wonderful, I think we’re looking forward to it, and we’re excited about it." Shirley says. Shirley says this designation keeps things moving ahead. She says a lot of it is a continuation of what they have been doing, as they’re in step three of the downtown revitalization, and are also working on a bike trail.
Randy Uhle is the economic development director for Winneshiek County, where the town of Decorah won the designation. Uhle says it’s a great opportunity and they look forward to partnering with the state. Uhle says they have several things in the works. Uhle says they will continue their 12-mile loop trail project around Decorah, they’re looking at a recreation center, and some food and fitness programs to help students maintain a healthier lifestyle.
Uhle says the designation confirms what he’s already said about the area. Uhle says he often uses the phrase that they’re going from good to great as they’re already a tourist destination. He says improving the trails and other improvements will only enhance that.
Linda Howard chaired the committee that put together the proposal for Appanoose County. Howard says there are funds involved if the legislature approves them, and she says they’ll use the designation as a marketing angle. She says they still have funds to raise, but this should make the fundraising easier. Howard says they want to send a message about their county.
Howard says the county is a "beautiful, beautiful natural environment, with 10-percent in public lands, Rathbun Lake, and the courthouse square with several shops. There are now 16 areas of the state with the "Great Places" designation. For more information on the program, visit the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs website.