As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I am reflecting on the past 3 years I’ve worked at Prairie Rivers and with the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway (LHHB.) I am thankful for the Lincoln Highway Association (LHA) and their vision to create and promote the road in 1913 and for the Iowa leaders who re-created theorganization in 1992,  to those Iowa LHA people who applied for the Iowa section to be part of the Iowa Scenic Byway program, to the Department of Transportation for including the Lincoln Highway in their Byway program and the support they continue to give to the Byways, and to the people in the communities along the route who work tirelessly to promote and support their neck-of-the-woods with their products, services, amenities, and attractions.

A few weeks ago, I drove a part of the Byway and saw farmers out harvesting their crops. Dust was flying, wagons were being filled with crops, and slow-moving vehicles with equipment and wagons slowed me down some on the roadways. And later as the sun faded, fields were lit up from equipment headlights as much work was yet to be done. The once rain-soaked fields had dried and farmers needed to take advantage of that. This week on Facebook, I am reading farm family posts about harvest season and some are already done with the crop for yet another year. I remember how pleased my own father was to have his crop in for the year, then take a breath, and start planning for the next growing season. It has to to be rewarding to put such effort into a crop, harvest it, and then make plans for the next year.

I can relate to this with the Byway work. We completed a harvest in late 2016 and are now planning for and seeding the next season. During our Corridor Management Plan process we harvested information:” What is important along the Byway? What is there is to see and do? What and how do we share this with others?” After gathering this information, the Corridor Management Plan (CMP) was written (2014-2016).  Harvest season complete.

In 2017, we are beginning the implementation phase. Several smaller projects have already been completed. One such project was to begin the interpretive sign program. We have created several signs in Greene and Boone counties in the past year. We have another one in the works in Westside, Iowa. The interpretive seeds have been planted, now we need to water (with grant application funds, if awarded) and watch the signage grow as we tell the story of the Lincoln Highway and the people who came before us in these interconnected towns.

The Byway signage is another project. The original installation of the Byway signage was outsourced by the Department of Transportation (DOT). My predecessor did an inventory of all 1200 signs across Iowa and identified where signs were missing. Several areas of Iowa have been addressed, but we need to continue across the state. The DOT sign shop is out of our LHHB signs, so I am waiting on these “seeds” before I can continue with this project.

We are also working on an application for a important engineering award and are working on gathering resources to begin to plant that seed, water it, and watch it mature.

Then there is the ArtPlace America Grant I spoke of last time. We are waiting to hear if we receive the funds to do this larger project of restoration of old gas stations; installation of interpretive panels, oral histories, and art; and re-purposing with electric charging stations at three very historic locations in Benton and Story County. The seeds are in the ground. This is a multifaceted project and we are hoping for rain (funds) to have a great crop (successful project.)

We have written other grants for a kid’s activity booklet, repairs for a bridge, and to supplement the ArtPlace project. Each of these are a crop on their own, but together it will bring the Lincoln Highway to life and we can watch it really blossom.

So in the coming months as we watch the barren ground turn white with snow and temperatures turn cold, we know that spring will be eventually be here. Patience. Time. The right season. So it goes with the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway. A new season is ahead as fresh seeds are planted and with the blessing of generous rainfalls (funds) sure to come our way, we are ready to watch things grow and bloom. Patience. Time. The right season.

Stay tuned.