Sunny skies and mild temperatures greeted Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds Friday afternoon as they joined the Glenwood Area Chamber of Commerce in celebrating the 25th anniversary of the state’s Adopt-A-Highway program. The 30-minute commemoration took place at the Mile Hill Lake overlook southwest of Glenwood.
The statewide roadside beautification program was launched May 23, 1989, in Mills County when the Glenwood Area Chamber of Commerce adopted a two-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 34 east of Interstate 29.
“As you know, the chamber of commerce and groups within your community launched this. I think you can take a great deal of pride for kicking off what’s just been a wonderful program for our state,” Branstad said. “I’m really proud to come back to where it all began and be here with you in this absolutely gorgeous location overlooking the Loess Hills.
“Currently, there are 1,600 miles of roadway that are adopted through the program. You can be very proud that you led the way and you started it 25 years ago.”
Branstad noted that as a result of Adopt-A-Highway, volunteers from more than 800 organizations statewide are responsible for collecting 32 percent of the litter from state roadways.
“There are many good environmental aspects to it that have helped create significant savings by having volunteers do this work instead of DOT (Department of Transportation) staff,” Branstad said. “More of our funds can actually go for road construction instead of having DOT staff clean the highways.”
The Glenwood Area Chamber of Commerce’s roadside beautification efforts along Highway 34 over the years have included the planting of trees and native plants and flowers. Reynolds said plantings along Highway 34 and other roadways in the state are beneficial for multiple reasons.
“Iowa’s roadways offer a winding pathway that allows our state’s beauty to unfold to both citizens and visitors alike. Iowans take great pride in preserving the natural beauty of our roadways,” Reynolds said. “The reintroduction of the native plants, trees and the grasses along Iowa’s roads have helped create habitat for beneficial species as well as control erosion and provide a living snow fence that reduces the drifting snow on roads.”
Several representatives of the Glenwood Area Chamber of Commerce took part in Friday’s program, including banker John Dean, who also attended the 1989 ceremony when Branstad helped launch Adopt-A-Highway in Mills County. At the 1989 ceremony, Dean presented the governor with a live rabbit as a gift from the citizens of Mills County. On Friday, he presented the governor with a pair of live fish swimming in a fish bowl.
During his remarks, Dean encouraged the governor to ask the landscaping department at Iowa State University to develop a landscaping plan for the Iowa side of the Highway 34-Missouri River bridge projected to open this fall.
Dean said the chamber of commerce would commit to making a donation to the landscaping project.
“As you come over the bridge (from Nebraska), it is a showcase of the Missouri River valley and the Loess Hills,” Dean told Branstad. “We invite you to make the gateway to Iowa spectacular. It is a rare opportunity to create something outstanding.”
Branstad seemed intrigued with Dean’s idea.
“I think your idea of getting Iowa State University and their landscape architecture people involved is a great idea,” Branstad said. “We do want to have beautiful landscaping so people have a really good first impression when they enter the state of Iowa.”