Making sure I380 reflects our community pride

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Dale Kueter and Leland Freie, guest columnists

Eight years ago a number of volunteers met to consider formation of a non-profit group that would focus on enhancing the appearance of Interstate 380 through the Cedar Rapids metro area. With encouragement from the Iowa Department of Transportation and local officials, the group Eye 380 was organized.

We believe that Interstate 380 is our main street, and its appearance is a reflection of the entire community and tells travelers that this is a place with pride. Our goals were to become involved in promoting trash pickup and adding plant groupings where approved by the IDOT.

We discovered that statewide programs were available for projects along Iowa’s roadways. Trees Forever in Marion was gracious to give us meeting space and ancillary services. With the help of Kirkwood Community College horticulture students, we drew up plans for the first plantings at the Boyson Road interchange in Hiawatha. That was six years ago.

Since then, we have constructed major planting beds south of the Wilson Avenue interchange, on both the east and west sides, and a fourth at the U.S. 30 southbound interchange. We have worked with Cedar Rapids officials in developing new welcome signs. At the request of city officials, Eye 380 has developed a master plan for future I-380 plantings.

To finance the maintenance of projects, we have received grants from various companies through the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, and contributions from other businesses and individuals and the Hotel and Motel fund administered by the City of Cedar Rapids.

For 2016 our focus will be on replacing plants, thistle control and development of a plan to remove rogue brush and trees along I-380 adjacent to Cedar Lake and substituting with native grasses and flowers. Long term, we want to develop a low-maintenance project on the west side of the interstate north of 32nd Street NE.

In recent winters nearly half of the knockout roses at the Wilson sites were destroyed. We will replace those with a hardier variety and make other improvements in these beds. We continue to battle Canada thistles at our Hiawatha site.

Nearly all of our budget goes for maintenance. We have no paid staff. We have minor expenditures to maintain our website, eye380.org, and for assistance in our annual appeal. We continue to seek your financial support. We welcome anyone interested in Eye 380 goals to attend our meetings at 4 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at Trees Forever, 770 Seventh Avenue, Marion.

• Dale Kueter and Leland Freie are co-chairs of Eye 380. More information: eye380.org

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