MORE CAN BE DONE TO SUPPORT THE IOWA GREAT RIVER ROAD, RECENT MEETING IN DAVENPORT REVEALS
"We need to think about the time people have to spend in our area. It’s not just about the marketing, the promotion, the Commissions, all the things we want to do. It’s about making sure that our guests and our residents can easily invest their time in enjoying the Mississippi River along the Iowa Great River Road,” remarked Joe Taylor, President and CEO of the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau at an Iowa Great River Road stakeholder meeting held at the Putnam Museum on April 10.
Stakeholders along the Iowa Great River Road National Scenic Byway recently participated in six stakeholders meetings where they shared their views on ways to enhance their Byway in the communities where they live, work, and play. These meetings, hosted by the Iowa Mississippi River Parkway Commission-- the managing organization for the Iowa Great River Road--are part of a multi-year effort to develop a new Corridor Management Plan for this national treasure. The Iowa Great River Road runs through all ten Iowa counties along the Mississippi River and annually attracts visitors from across the United States and around the world.
Stakeholder meetings were held in six Great River Road communities - Camanche, Marquette, Burlington, Muscatine, Davenport, and Dubuque between April 2 and April 15. Nearly 200 people participated and each meeting featured a unique panel of local, state, and federal stakeholders discussing the future of this important travel destination.
Panelists at the meeting in Davenport included Shawna Lode, Manager, Iowa Tourism Office; Joe Taylor, President and CEO, Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau; Tim Huey, Director, Scott County Planning and Development; and Terri Applegate, LeClaire City Council.
Participants recognized the Iowa Great River Road as one of Iowa’s greatest tourism and economic development resources, but one which may be underutilized and underfunded. A key need expressed was for improved access to digital information about the Iowa Great River Road and its resources – through an effective website, downloadable smartphone applications, and with social media sites like Facebook or Twitter. Meeting participants also voiced a need for more regular communications between stakeholder organizations along the route to share information, generate ideas and assign responsibility for projects which could support the current efforts of the 10-member Iowa Mississippi River Parkway Commission. Concerns were also expressed about how the Iowa Great River Road could reach its true potential without currently having any paid or dedicated staff and very little dedicated budget for projects and promotion. “The (Iowa Mississippi River) Parkway Commission can be an advocate and encourage local residents and governments to do a better job (at providing and protecting amenities for visitors and residents),” suggested Tim Huey, Director of Scott County Planning and Development.
Panelists and audience members also discussed what a powerful draw the Mississippi River is for tourism and how locals sometimes overlook the sheer majesty of the mighty river and its potential for growing local economies. Visitors coming to the area want to see the River via overlooks, want to sit along its banks, want to reach in and touch the current, and the Iowa Great River Road can become an even more powerful tool for providing those experiences. “The Great River Road is a major tourism asset in Iowa,” said Iowa Tourism Office Manager Shawna Lode. “Every year it hosts millions of visitors from around the globe. Our challenge as Iowans is to appreciate its great potential as an economic driver and tell its story as a unique and memorable travel destination.” Sharing the unique stories of the area was a prime goal advocated at the meeting. “I don’t know if we can promote stories enough. There are many ways we can tell the stories of this Great River Road that we live on, whether it’s in the past or in the future. It’s a great heritage that we pass on to our families,” remarked LeClaire City Councilperson Terri Applegate.
Supporting the completion of the Mississippi River Trail, the bike route which closely follows the Iowa Great River Road, was another need that was discussed. Participants also stressed the importance of quality signs to properly mark the route of the Iowa Great River Road and direct travelers to its wealth of resources. Integrating local, regional, and state maps with consistent marking of the route with the Great River Road pilot wheel symbol was cited as a critical need.
During the meeting in Davenport, David L. Dahlquist Associates, the byway consultant retained to prepare the updated Management Plan, also provided an overview of visitor and resident surveys conducted along the route in 2013 which indicate high levels of awareness and support for the Iowa Great River Road.
Following the last meeting held in Dubuque on April 15, Commission Chair, John Goodmann observed, “The discussions provided by the 34 panel members and all of the attendee comments and suggestions at the six meetings will provide highly valuable input as the Commission moves forward to consider options for future direction and action.”
A full report of the 2014 Iowa Great River Road stakeholder meetings is being prepared. To request a copy of the report, please contact John Goodmann, Chair of the Iowa Mississippi River Parkway Commission at (563) 599-4350 or David L. Dahlquist, Byway Planner, at
or (515) 963-1989.