Students’ Work Culminates in County Being Named One of “Iowa Great Places”

Cedar County, Iowa has received Iowa Great Places designation as a result of URP students’ capstone project. The program, run by the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, gives the award to communities “with a strong vision for innovation, and enhancing vitality and quality of life, while staying true to what makes your community unique." Those receiving the award are then eligible to apply for grants, with an average award of $185,000, to “supports the development of new and existing infrastructure intended to cultivate the unique and authentic qualities of neighborhoods, communities and regions in Iowa.”

A group of seven master’s students spent the 2017-2018 academic year creating a comprehensive plan for Cedar County linked to a strategic Great Places visioning plan with the support of the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities. Their work included public outreach and engagement including eight community workshops throughout the county, three surveys, focus groups, and an open house. In addition to input from residents, students worked extensively with the Cedar County Economic Development Commission (CCEDCO), East Central Intergovernmental Association (ECIA), the county Board of Supervisors and Planning and Zoning Board to develop and refine their recommendations and plan. The process resulted in county mission and vision statements as well as goals, objectives, and implementation strategies for each community in the county.

As a result of the students’ plan, the county is pursuing funding for their recommendations, such as enhancing the quality of recreational and outdoor amenities through improvements to local parks, trails, and accessibility to landmarks. The county will also address the goals of increased arts and cultural opportunities and downtown revitalization through creative placemaking. They are planning to paint murals in each county community that highlight local history, cultural events, and community features.

Note: The "Cedar County Comprehensive Plan For 2038" and "Cedar County: Envisioning a New Horizon" plan are best viewed using Firefox.