Allamakee County Conservation Foundation launches public phase of "Beyond The Plateau" capital campaign for Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center

Members of the Allamakee County Conservation Foundation and the Beyond the Plateau Capital Campaign Committee are pictured above displaying the number 3,269,346, which represents the total amount of funding raised so far through grant and other private funding sources for the Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center project south of Lansing. The display was presented at the Wednesday, June 22 event held at the Center that helped kick off the public fundraising phase of the Beyond the Plateau campaign. Those invited to the kick-off event heard updates on the project and were provided a tour of the facility as work continues to progress (as evident in the photo below). Photos by Susan Cantine-Maxson.

Members of the general public now invited to make their own contribution to the project

The Allamakee County Conservation Foundation (ACCF) has announced the kick-off of the public phase of the "Beyond The Plateau" capital campaign to help fund construction of the Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center south of Lansing. In an event held Wednesday, June 22 at the Center, ACCF campaign organizers celebrated securing $3.3 million in funding with a program and tours of the property, which is located at 1944 Columbus Road, Lansing.

The 10,000-square-foot, three-level Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center is expected to house interpretive and dimensional displays covering topics such as geology, limnology (rivers/streams), archeology, conservation and wildlife studies, river town industries and economies, American Indian cultures, local history and more.

“We’re very excited to announce today that the Vision Iowa board has awarded our project a highly competitive CAT (Community Attraction and Tourism) grant for the full-asking amount of  $486,386, which means we now have 92 percent of funding secured at public kick-off,” said Jane M. Regan, capital campaign co-chair and Iowa Mississippi River Parkway commissioner.

“Vision Iowa selectively awards grants to projects that are available to the general public and provide recreational, cultural, entertainment and educational attractions.”

The Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center is not only expected to provide educational and recreational opportunities to regional residents, it is also anticipated that it will positively influence the county’s economy by providing a new tourism attraction in the Iowa Great River Road Corridor. The visitor center will provide meeting and office space for public use, multiple observation decks, recreational trails, and classrooms and group learning spaces to educate visitors on the importance of the Driftless Area.

“When glaciers carved paths through the Upper Mississippi River Valley 12,500 years ago, their paths skirted Allamakee County, preserving the existing topography and protecting many animal and plant species lost to the glaciers outside this Driftless Area,” said Jim Janett, Allamakee County Conservation Director. “We’re excited to welcome residents, tourists and roughly 10,000 youth from area school districts annually to partake in over 500 programs to learn the importance of the Driftless Area and how to conserve and protect our vital habitat for another 12,500 years and beyond.”

Another major funder of the capital campaign also stated the importance of this visitor center in educating youth about the land and history of this region. The R.J. McElroy Trust (Trust) invests in opportunities that inspire and transform young people in northeast Iowa. Last month, the Trust awarded ACCF a $250,000 challenge grant and an additional $50,000 for successfully completing the challenge for a total gift of $300,000 toward the capital campaign. Eight area banks and their stakeholders raised $250,000 to meet the Trust’s challenge for ACCF to be awarded the matching grant.

“It is with great appreciation that we recognize Vision Iowa, McElroy Trust and our area banks for their generous gifts to the Beyond the Plateau capital campaign,” said Regan. “We now ask fellow residents and the businesses in our area to make a contribution to help us raise the last $330,000 of this important project for youth education, conservation and economic development - no gift is too small.”

Regan added that gifts may be made in cash, securities, stock or pledges of up to three years. All donations are tax-deductible, with donors giving at the $1,000 level or more to be recognized on a donor wall in the visitor center.

Those wishing to contribute to the campaign may do so by filling out a pledge form and return it to the Allamakee County Conservation Foundation, P.O. Box 278, Harpers Ferry, IA 52146. That pledge form can be obtained online at

Total construction cost for the project is estimated at $3.6 million. ACCF was awarded a $1.3 million National Scenic Byway Grant, the largest amount awarded by this organization to an Iowa entity. Out of 1,800 applications submitted nationwide, the Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center was one of 80 projects funded. Additional support for the project includes a Fish Habitat grant, as well as REAP and Allamakee County funding. In an effort to raise the remaining dollars, a $1.4 million capital campaign was initiated in summer 2015 with $1.1 million toward this goal raised to date.

Construction on the Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center is expected to be completed this fall. It will be a free attraction open to the public.

For additional information about the "Beyond the Plateau" capital campaign or the Driftless Area Visitor and Education Center, contact Conservation Director Jim Janett at 563-586-2996.