The Vision Iowa Board today awarded grants to four community attraction projects around the state. They’re located in Des Moines, Davenport, Manchester, and Harlan.
Kim Findlay is president and CEO of the Putnam Museum of History and Natural Science in Davenport, which was awarded a $300,000 grant. “It will enable us to open a 10,000 square foot repurposed portion of the Putnam as a hands-on, STEM learning and adventure center,” Findlay said. Around 40,000 school children visit the Putnam Museum every year.
Findlay expects even more visitors after the renovations are completed in April of next year and she believes they’ll walk away with a better understanding and interest in science, technology, engineering, and math. “It’s about Americans graduating more of our students in science, technology, engineering, and math so that we’re competitive on a global level,” Findlay said.
City and school officials in Harlan were awarded $200,000 for renovations to the Merrill Field sports complex. Harlan Schools Superintendent Justin Wagner said the project carries a total price tag of just over $1.5 million. “The overall project is really to bring our complex into ADA compliance and replace a lot of the existing structures that have been there since the 1970s,” Wagner said.
The sports complex, which includes a running track, is used almost every day by both students and community members. “It’s centrally located right in the middle of Harlan, it’s not next to the school,” Wagner said. “It’s the heartbeat of the community.”
The Vision Iowa Board awarded the City of Manchester $300,000 toward the construction of a whitewater park on the Maquoketa River. Manchester City Manager Tim Vick is expecting the project, once completed in the spring of 2015, will attract a lot of visitors. “From the studies that have been done, for every person that’s in the water, there are four people on the bank. If we have four people on the bank, that means they’re close to our downtown shops and they’re in our downtown…that’s huge for us just to keep that going and vital,” Vick said.
The whitewater trail will be 900 feet long and feature six 18-inch drop locations for tubing and kayaking. Vick said the $1.8 million project has already spurred some development in downtown Manchester. “We have a new microbrewery that’s going in our downtown because of this project,” Vick said. “We also have a canoe and kayak outfitter that’s come in and they’ve been renting canoes and kayaks for about two years now. We’re excited to see what other businesses will pop up out of this project.”
The Vision Iowa Board also awarded $1.1 million to the group Des Moines Performing Arts for renovations to Cowles Commons — an area of downtown Des Moines formerly known as Nollen Plaza.