Eye 380 plan looks to beautify interstate corridor in Cedar Rapids

Group applying for funding through the Iowa Department of Transportation

CEDAR RAPIDS – Driven by a group of volunteers and a new master plan, the major route through Cedar Rapids will take on a new look, with help from public support.

Eye 380, which has overseen two landscaping projects along Interstate 380, will apply for funding through the Iowa Department of Transportation for its next roadside plantings.

Members are looking for community support to fund the rest, including low limestone retaining walls and ongoing maintenance of the plants.

Dale Kueter, president of Eye 380, said a $60,000 fund drive is under way.

The group is applying for grants from area businesses and has sent more than 75 letters, asking for support.

Money raised will go to landscaping projects at the Wilson Avenue SW interchange, with a goal to start in the spring, and a project near McLoud Run in northeast Cedar Rapids next fall, or whenever enough funds are raised.

“We see it as our Main Street,” Kueter, a retired Gazette reporter, said of the interstate. “It reflects our community. We think it should be appealing to visitors and (commuters) who travel it every day.”

Ruth Fox, a Cedar Rapids landscape architect and secretary/treasurer of the group, led work on the master plan.

Members took driving tours to find potential planting sites along I-380 from Boyson Road to the Wright Brothers Boulevard exit.

“We looked for the best, most possible, most visible locations,” Fox said, with the Wilson Avenue and McLoud Run sites chosen as the next priorities from 12 spots.

The Cedar Rapids Information Technology Department created a Geographic Information System (GIS) map of the area with a list of property owners and sites owned by the city for the group’s use. Traffic data also was analyzed.

“This will be our guide for the next 10, 20 years,” Kueter said of the master plan. “Whatever it takes.”

Already, plantings were completed in 2008 at Boyson Road in Hiawatha, and last year at the Kirkwood/Highway 30 southbound exit in Cedar Rapids.

Plagued by a wet spring in 2011 and drought this year, some of the recent plantings did not survive.

Ultimately, however, the predominantly native plants and grasses should be drought-tolerant and hardy enough to survive Iowa winters and other conditions.

Purple coneflower and rudbeckia are among the choices for Wilson Avenue, along with redbud and thornless hawthorn trees and Knock Out roses.

Designer Diane Hoefer created a serpentine pattern reminiscent of  rolling hills in Iowa artist Grant Wood’s “Young Corn” painting.

Hoefer also designed the Kirkwood/Highway 30 project.

Landscape architect Eric Shepley, who designed the Boyson Road project, is also designing the McLoud Run site.

Funding for the plants and two years of maintenance is from a DOT fund, specifically designated for roadside landscaping. The grants cannot be used for fixing potholes or other street repairs.

Kueter said other amenities, including the retaining walls, are not covered by the fund, as well as maintenance after the first two years, such as pruning and mulching.

He hopes more donors will come forward, like Becka Simpson of Iowa City, who made a donation in honor of her mother, Becky Shawver.

“My mother and father supported Kirkwood (Community College) during their lives, and my mother was an avid gardener," Simpson wrote in an email,  "so the donation always fit well in my mind.”


For more information, see www.Eye380.org

Anyone interested in donating to the project can send a check made out to Trees Forever, (the fiscal agent for Eye 380) with a notation for the Eye 380 program, to: Eye 380, c/o Trees Forever, 770 Seventh Ave., Marion, Iowa 52302.

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