ACCB provides update on Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center

submitted by Allamakee County Conservation Board

With the early arrival of spring weather this year, crews from Cresco Builders Inc. have been able to complete much of the main structure framing for the Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center, located on the Columbus property just south of Lansing. The next phases of the project will include completing the roof, sheeting and weather proofing of the exterior walls, and installation of windows.
Work completed on the project thus far has been primarily funded by the National Scenic Byway Grant along with private funds. In 2014, the Allamakee County Board of Supervisors provided the Conservation Board with funds to help facilitate requirements of that National Scenic Byway Grant in regard to payments and reimbursements on project costs. The National Scenic Byway Grant requires payment of project expenditures by the Conservation Board before reimbursements can be submitted. The funding provided by the Board of Supervisors helped cash flow the initial costs of getting the project construction underway, which were then reimbursed by funds from the National Scenic Byway Grant.
Although considered to be one of the final phases of the project, the Allamakee County Conservation Board has more recently asked the Allamakee County Board of Supervisors to include in the County’s five-year secondary roads plan the use of fuel tax monies to be used for the paving of the traveled portion of the roadway accessing the Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center. This part of the project entails approximately 24’ x 700’ of mainline paving of the previously asphalt-surfaced Columbus Road. It does not include curbs, gutters, sidewalks or parking areas associated with the project. Due to recent public concern and comment, the use of these funds is still under consideration by the Board of Supervisors.
Funding for the overall project through various grants and private fundraising is still ongoing. In the circumstance that fundraising for the project slows, construction of the project will also slow to coincide with available funds.
The Allamakee County Conservation Board and the Conservation Foundation have spent years laying the groundwork for the Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center. The project was proposed to the Conservation Board by residents of Allamakee County and guided by public input. Numerous public meetings were conducted in regard to the concept, planning, content and design of the project. Work completed on the project thus far can be attributed to the countless hours of many volunteers and donations from many people.
Grant funding has played a very important role in funding the planning and design of the project. Several grants from the Allamakee County Community Foundation were secured for the initial site development planning, as well as facility and interpretive display design. These grants from the Allamakee County Community Foundation were instrumental in securing the National Scenic Byway Grant that totaled $1,361,400 for the project.
The National Scenic Byway Grant was written by Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) located in Postville, and was the largest grant awarded within the state of Iowa from the National Scenic Byway Program. The National Scenic Byway Grant process was extremely competitive, with nearly $112 million in requests and only $37 million awarded. The Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center project was one of 125 grants selected to be funded from 261 grant requests from across the nation. The project itself is located along three different byways designations, which include the Great River Road National Scenic Byway, Mississippi River Trail and Driftless Area Scenic Byway.

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