People & Places

A 'Great Place' to live, grow and play

Cedar County joins communities recognized by Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

A mural is planned for the wall of the building that houses Among Friends in Tipton, behind a sculpture that promotes the town’s bike sharing program. (Jon Bell)
A mural is planned for the wall of the building that houses Among Friends in Tipton, behind a sculpture that promotes the town’s bike sharing program. (Jon Bell)

Cedar County is the newest member of the “Iowa Great Places.”

Overseen by the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, Iowa Great Places receive access to professional training, technical assistance, networking and other state and local resources.

“T​he Iowa Great Places program celebrates communities with a bold vision to develop their communities through innovation, place-making and integration of arts, history and culture to enrich their residents’ overall quality of life,” said Chris Kramer, acting director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, in a news release. “We’re proud to add Cedar County to the Iowa Great Places program, and I’m eager to see how they’ll use this opportunity to keep growing.”

The news release noted things that qualify Cedar County as a Great Place, including, “downtown revitalization and increased arts opportunities, such as the restoration of Hardacre Theatre; creation of the Cedar County Office of Tourism to increase targeted promotion; and enhancement of its natural environment infrastructure, including the development of a Cedar County Recreation Trail Plan.”

The Great Place designation opens up the chance to apply for funding for some of those things from the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund, an annual appropriation from the Iowa Legislature. Funds are awarded for projects related to a community’s vision plan. Iowa currently has 45 Great Places with 13 projects in progress, with an average grant award of $204,000 between 2014 and 2018.

Jon Bell, Cedar County supervisor and president of the board of directors of the Cedar County Development Foundation, said the various towns in Cedar County, including West Branch and Tipton, came together in partnership with graduate students from the University of Iowa’s School of Urban & Regional Planning to create their vision plan. Students toured all the towns in the county and interviewed community members about what was great about their towns, as well as what more they would like to see. Those led to a land use and comprehensive plan for the county.

The county will apply for grant money for community projects based on some of the feedback the students gathered.

Those include upgrades to local parks and bike and walking trails, as well a community mural program. The plan is to paint a mural in each town in the county that reflects that town’s history or values.


“Not only will it be really neat for visitors, but it will encourage the folks living in those communities, give them something to be really proud of,” Bell said.

He lives in Tipton, where he said the plan for the mural is to place it on a wall behind a large bike sculpture. The sculpture serves a dual purpose, as it is a hub for the town’s bike-sharing program — people can borrow bicycles and return them to the sculpture.

Highlighting things like that is part of highlighting what makes Cedar County towns “great places,” he said.

“Cedar County is a good place to live, work and play,” he said. “

Nine other communities were redesignated as Great Places, including the Coon Rapids and Whiterock Conservancy, Davenport’s Main Street Landing, Decorah, Dubuque’s Driftless North End, Guttenberg, the cities of Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty, Marion, Perry, and Van Buren County.

Five cultural and entertainment districts also were redesignated, including the Downtown Dubuque Cultural Corridor, the Fairfield Cultural & Entertainment District, the Downtown Davenport Cultural & Entertainment District, the Cody Road Cultural & Entertainment District and the Cedar Falls Downtown District.

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