The Van Meter Community was one of about 10 communities chosen to participate in the 2018-19 Iowa Living Roadways Community Visioning Program.


This community program was originally formed back in 1996. Together with Iowa State University, Trees Forever, professional landscape architects and the DOT, the program works to help small Iowa communities bridge the gap between the demand and availability of the resources needed to improve local transportation systems. In order to participate in the program, communities must contain less than 10,000 residents and be chosen through an application process. Once selected, each community then receives the opportunity to improve roadways, trails, parks and more throughout their community.


“The Visioning process is focused on gathering a diverse group of community leaders who then go through a year-long process facilitated at every step along the way by a Trees Forever Field Coordinator,” Trees Forever Executive Coordinator Alida Selim said.


The Van Meter community’s participation in the program began back in November after a Van Meter Steering Committee was formed and members attended the Iowa Living Roadways Community Visioning Annual Meeting. It was at this time when the Van Meter Steering Committee not only learned from past visioning projects but also planned their first steps in the visioning process.


From there, with the help of Iowa State University, a random sampling of residents completed surveys covering transportation related conditions, routes they use and areas throughout the community that were in need of improvement. Focus groups were held and a goal setting meeting took place based on the feedback received.


“ISU gathers as much local data as possible through surveys and focus groups to understand how the community uses the transportation system, what assets it possess that people would like to see enhanced or expanded, and what barriers exist that need to be addressed,” Selim said.


The Van Meter Steering Committee’s goals will focus on four key areas. The beautification of the north entrance into Van Meter will include landscaping, lighting and eliminating clutter from the river to Elm Street. The beautification of downtown Main Street will include lighting, landscaping and sidewalks. The open space on the southwest corner of Grant and West Street will be developed and converted into a park and community gathering space, and there will be a trail loop and improved connections for the sidewalk and trails master plan.


The community visioning process, including research and payment for the landscape architect, can cost over $80,000 for one community, none of which is funded by the community itself.


“The community needs to illustrate they have a need for transportation enhancement. What we ask them to do as part of the acceptance process is they have to spend $2,000 toward implementing their first project,” Iowa living Roadways Community Visioning Project Manager and Iowa State University Extension Program Specialist Sandra Oberbroeckling said.


Coming up, a design workshop, open to all community members, will take place on June 1 at Raccoon River Days.


The workshop will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 1 in a tent in front of the library. In the event of inclement weather, it will move to The Law Shop, 413 Grant St.


This workshop is a chance for a landscape architect to begin generating ideas thorough drawings and sketches along with address the four goals that have been established. Residents are encouraged to attend the workshop not only to see what will be designed but to also offer feedback. The design workshop will then conclude with a presentation highlighting the new design followed by a question and answer session in order to gather any additional community feedback.


Once the visioning process is complete, the Van Meter Steering Committee will then work to prioritize the projects along with prepare for the implementation phase in the upcoming year.


Look for more information on the Van Meter Community Visioning website, www.communityvisioning.org/van-meter/.