Interest in next week’s public meeting of the group working to establish an archeological interpretive center here has been heightened with the announcement of a $602,478 state planning grant.
Plans call for the center to be constructed on a five-acre tract on the south side of Highway 34 at its intersection with Levi Road. It is at the edge of the 900-plus acre state archeological preserve established in 2009. The proposed building site is known locally as the trailhead for Foothills Park walking trail.
The preserve is rich in history pertaining to Glenwood Culture Native Americans, the name archeologists have attached to the people who lived in the area from about 900 to 1400 A.D. The natives lived in earth mound lodges. At least 109 such mounds and other significant sites are known to exist beneath the surface of the preserve.
“Public recognition of the interpretive center project had been growing slowly, but news of the grant has gotten more people looking for more information about the plan” said Wayne Phipps, chairman of the local Loess Hills Archeological Interpretive Center board of directors. The center is envisioned as both a studying and educational resource for area schools and universities as well as developing into a major tourist stop, Phipps said.
Also announced last week was a $398,986 state grant that will directly affect the center. That grant went to the University of Iowa and will go toward cataloging more than 80,000 artifacts unearthed when the current Highway 34 routing was constructed several decades ago at the south edge of Glenwood.
“Some of those artifacts will undoubtedly find a place in some of the center’s displays,” Phipps said.
Both grants were announced by the Iowa Department of Transportation.
Phipps said the public is invited to the Thursday, Jan. 27 meeting of the center’s board, set for 6:30 p.m. at the Glenwood Senior Center, to help in the planning of the center. The meeting will be preceded by the annual meeting of the board to which the public is also invited, Phipps said. That meeting starts at 5:30 p.m.
“We envision the center as being a $6 million to $7 million project and we look at this next meeting as being a two-way street: We want the public to learn more about what is possible and we hope the board can learn more about how the public views the project and what ideas they might have for its features,” said Phipps.
“The meeting will be structured somewhat like a goal-setting session in which submitted ideas are then voted on,” Phipps said. He said results of the meeting should prove an aid in drawing up final plans for center. Board members have already put time and effort into studying what other interpretive centers include, “but we can always use fresh idea,” Phipps said.
Phipps lauded the work of the Golden Hills Resource Conservation and Development agency and its director, Shirley Frederiksen, in aiding the board in raising funds and obtaining grants for the project.
“The work of the agency has obviously made state officials well aware of the center plans and the possibilities,” Phipps said.
Phipps also noted that he met briefly with Governor Terry Branstad after the governor’s most recent town hall meeting in Council Bluffs and that Branstad was furnished with an information packet on the interpretive center project. Phipps also was recently contacted by Debra Durham, picked by Branstad to lead the Iowa Department of Economic Development. An informational packet has also been sent to Roger Lande, new head of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
“It is becoming more and more apparent that the interpretive center will become a win-win situation for Iowa and for Glenwood. It should grow to be not only an outstanding facility for research and education, but also a top tourist draw, bringing with it all those things that tourism brings,” Phipps said.