Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway Complete Sign Inventory Begins

Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway Complete Sign Inventory Begins

On a recent beautiful crisp fall morning, Prairie Rivers of Iowa staff and a volunteer set out to travel the Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway through urban streets and gravel roads in Story and Boone counties. Byway Coordinator Jonathan Sherwood is starting a new project across all thirteen counties and 43 municipalities to inventory and assess the condition of the Byway’s signage. These signs are a critical part byway infrastructure and have historical significance as an evolution of what came before.

From the beginning of the Lincoln Highway, tools were needed to assist the traveler including guidebooks and signs along the route. In the early era of the established transcontinental route, signs were painted on telephone poles ad hoc by local councils and volunteers.

Today travelers along the historic route in Iowa rely on guidebooks, maps, and signage. These aids are thanks to the efforts of many individuals, organizations such as Prairie Rivers, and government agencies like the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT).

Lincoln Highway Activity Guide and Map
Lincoln Highway Vintage Style Telephone Pole Marker
Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway Signage in Need of Repair After Tornado

Over time all the byway signs need to be maintained. The condition of the signs has ranged from excellent to vandalized, bent, and faded from the sun. Some signs are missing from their original location. The signs are always located at any turn with directional arrows. They are also located after any turn in the route where another sign confirms that the traveler is on the right path.

The inventory aims to improve the quality of the signage out on the roadway network, improve the life cycle of each sign from ordering, fabricating, installing, maintaining, and removing, improve the ability to budget for these key assets on a statewide basis, provide a tool for the decision maker to do signage related scenario planning.

The Iowa DOT has developed a geospatial program to maintain and update data on locations and conditions of signs statewide. Prairie Rivers’ staff are using iPads with ESRI’s ArcGIS Field Maps app loaded with IDOT data to wholly complete the survey. Previously condition reports were recorded based on individual needs, at specific times, in different districts or regions.

According to PRI staff, “This is a great way to see the byway while traveling down gravel roads at 25 mph, much like the original traveler in their Ford Model T.”

The project is expected to run through the fall and wrap up before road conditions deteriorate.

The project is expected to run through the fall and wrap up before road conditions deteriorate.
Lincoln Highway National heritage Byway in Woodbine Iowa
Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway in Marshall County Iowa
Lincoln Highway Natiional heritage Byway in Carroll Iowa
Ames Pollinator-Friendly Practices Pilot Project Completed

Ames Pollinator-Friendly Practices Pilot Project Completed

How can homeowners in Ames be encouraged to increase pollinator-friendly practices in their yards? That was the question addressed by former Prairie Rivers of Iowa Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway Coordinator Shellie Orngard in a recently completed pilot project using Community Based Social Marketing strategies. Now that the pilot is completed, the project will move forward in 2023 to explore ways to apply what was learned to increase pollinator habitat along Iowa’s Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway.

Community Based Social Marketing was developed by Canadian psychology professor Doug McKenzie-Moher, author of Fostering Sustainable Behavior. It is used in developing and implementing community programs that make use of scientific knowledge of human behavior in effecting change. Community programs such as composting and conserving water and energy have used it to increase participation.

According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 70 to 80 percent of Iowa was once covered by prairie, producing rich agricultural soil and a lush environment for pollinators. Now, with 90 percent of Iowa’s land in agricultural production, less than one percent of Iowa’s prairie remains, simultaneously reducing pollinator habitat. “Doing this project I learned strategies to encourage pollinator-friendly practices that can be employed along Iowa’s byways,” says Orngard. “We are now exploring applying these strategies to make the Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway a pollinator-friendly byway from the Mississippi to the Missouri Rivers. Some of Iowa’s other 13 byways have also expressed interest.”

Visitors to Jennett Heritage Area prairie near Nevada Iowa during Prairie Rivers Bees and Berries Family Adventure Day
Urban Pollinator Garden

While a number of groups (including Prairie Rivers) have focused on encouraging farmers, other large landowners, and local governments to improve pollinator habitat, this project will also include urban areas, businesses, and homeowners.

An initial survey was conducted to determine the perceived barriers and benefits of creating a pollinator garden. The results show that homeowners can face some big barriers such as knowing what types of plants to grow that provide diverse and useful habitat during all seasons. Additionally, by implementing pollinator-friendly practices, homeowners may, in some cases, go against societal norms of having a yard consisting primarily of well-groomed turf.

This project focused on strategies to encourage a paradigm shift in what landowners consider desirable, resulting in such practices as reducing pesticide and herbicide use, letting grass grow longer before mowing, and leaving leaves for overwintering insects.

To encourage year-round pollinator-friendly practices, Orngard worked with Xerces Society Farm Bill Pollinator Conservation Planner/NRCS Partner Biologist Sarah Nizzi to create The Pollinator Friendly Yard: A Seasonal Guide informational flyer. Homeowners were asked to commit to increasing their pollinator-friendly practices according to their comfort level.

As a final strategy, Orngard worked with local artist Naomi Friend to create a charming yard sign homeowners can use to educate passersby about why some leaves are being left to provide habitat for overwintering insects.

Pollinator Garden Sign

Pollinator-friendly yard signs are available by contacting our office.

Orngard summarizes the pilot project as a success that will guide Prairie Rivers Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway and Watersheds and Wildlife programs, local community partners, homeowners, other byways, and communities throughout Iowa as they move forward with education and on-the-ground practices geared towards improving the environment for pollinators in our state.

This project was made possible in part by Resource Enhancement and Protection Conservation Education Program (REAP-CEP) funding along with coaching support from the E Resources Group’s Dr. Jean Eells, a frequent Prairie Rivers of Iowa collaborator, and Rebecca Christoffel. The REAP-CEP funding also allowed Orngard to attend an online workshop by Doug McKenzie-Moher on Community-Based Social Marketing and Resiliency and Adaptation to Climate Change and the Iowa Conservation Education Coalition Winter Workshop.

Shellie Orngard also contributed to the content of this article.

Meet Our New Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway Coordinator

Meet Our New Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway Coordinator

On the surface Prairie Rivers of Iowa’s new Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway (LHNHB) Coordinator Jonathan Sherwood radiates a friendly, yet quiet demeanor. Already it has become apparent he knows how to bring people together as a great listener with empathy and thoughtfulness. Despite his calm exterior, digging deeper, we have quickly learned he has a deep passion for historic preservation and community development.

Something else everyone should know about Sherwood is that he was born for his new role being from, and now once again living in, the Lincoln Highway community of Nevada, Iowa. Some of his earliest memories include enjoying spirited parades during Lincoln Highway Days. “Nothing compares to the quality of life in Central Iowa and growing up one house off the Lincoln Highway,” he relates.

In his new role, Sherwood is taking on the often gargantuan task of bringing together governments, businesses, civic organizations, tourism officials, history buffs and transportation enthusiasts together as Prairie Rivers continues a new chapter of Byway management. According to Prairie Rivers of Iowa Executive Director Penny Brown Huber, “Jonathan is an excellent listener which is a skill that helps when reaching out to so many different community leaders.”

As byway coordinator, Sherwood’s duties will encompass working across the 13 Iowa counties and 43 towns that stretch along the Lincoln Highway in Iowa, river to river, east to west from Clinton on the Mississippi to Council Bluffs on the Missouri.

Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway Coordinator Jonathan Sherwood

Prairie Rivers of Iowa LHNHB Coordinator Jonathan Sherwood during a recent visit to the historic Reed Niland Corner at the intersection of the Lincoln and Jefferson Highways.

He is committed to restoring, protecting and preserving the cultural and natural resources in Iowa. “This work provides the opportunity for me to work on some of the things I’m most passionate about, people, transportation, and the environment,” says Sherwood.

According to Huber, some of the reasons Sherwood was hired for the position include his degree in community and regional planning from Iowa State University and his previous work experience in transportation and rural communities with an emphasis on geographic information systems (GIS). “His time working with communities to utilize trails for economic development activities made him an excellent fit to be the LHNHB Coordinator,” states Huber.

Sherwood is a member of the Institute of Certified Planners (ACIP) and is currently pursuing a Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) degree at ISU. He is replacing Shellie Orngard as the new LHNHB Coordinator who is now focused on Prairie Rivers special projects including an evaluation of properties along the Lincoln Highway that are on, or should be, on the National Register of Historic Places. To contact Sherwood email him at jsherwood@prrcd.org.

In his spare time, Sherwood enjoys gardening and traveling to Iowa’s state parks. Be sure to keep an eye out for him along the Byway!

Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway in Iowa

The Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway is Iowa’s longest and most historic byway, traveling through more than 460 miles of history, recreation, and welcoming Iowa communities.

Prairie Rivers of Iowa’s LHNHB program is a community-driven statewide historical effort to preserve the story of the places and people of the byway. We are committed to the conservation, preservation, and responsible use of all of the byway’s natural, historical, cultural, and community resources while building upon local assets strengthening and sharing its economic vitality. 

Please join us and thousands of other travelers along the Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway – Iowa’s section of America’s original Main Street. 

Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Awards Prairie Rivers of Iowa a Historic Resources Development Project (HRDP) Grant

Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Awards Prairie Rivers of Iowa a Historic Resources Development Project (HRDP) Grant

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs has awarded Prairie Rivers of Iowa a Historic Resources Development Project (HRDP) grant to assess the condition of the approximately 319 properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places along the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway (LHHB) in Iowa.

Many historic properties have been lost over the years, and this survey is a critical first step in preserving them. Historic properties can be especially at risk because awareness of their value and knowledge of appropriate upkeep methods is often lost over time.

Established in 1913, the LHHB was the country’s first improved coast-to-coast highway. In 2021, it was nationally recognized by the National Scenic Byway Foundation as a National Heritage Byway for its contribution to transportation history. 

Lincoln Hotel Lowden Iowa
Lincoln Highway Bridge Tama Iowa

Like the wagon train trails and railways before it, the Lincoln Highway opened cities and rural communities alike to vital population and commercial growth more than 100 years ago and brings heritage tourism and pride of place today. One-third of Iowans still live along the Lincoln Highway corridor and recognition of the Lincoln Highway connection is evident in festivals such as Nevada’s Lincoln Highway Days celebrated every August, and parks, like the Lincoln Highway Lion’s Club Tree Park in Grand Junction.

If you own or have knowledge of a property on the Lincoln Highway that is on the National Register of Historic Places, we would like to hear about it. Please contact Shellie Orngard, Project Manager, sorngard@prrcd.org.

Promise Road: How the Lincoln Highway Changed America

Promise Road: How the Lincoln Highway Changed America

Currently, display is being prepared to move to a new location. Please check back for new details.

Promise Road tells the story of how the Lincoln Highway knit together the nation in the early days of the automobile and helps communities grow. It was created by Prairie Rivers of Iowa with funding from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, a grant from the Greater Iowa Credit Union, and support from the Iowa Department of Transportation.

“Many of us have driven the Lincoln Highway but haven’t realized its significance for the unfolding of our country’s modern history. This exhibition tells that story,” said Shellie Orngard, the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway coordinator.

Lincoln Highway Traveling Exhibit

The building of the Lincoln Highway was initiated in 1913, when most people traveled by foot or by horse and the roads were mud or gravel. America’s first coast-to-coast highway, the Lincoln Highway starts in Times Square, New York City, and travels through 14 states, ending at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. A dramatic story of ingenuity, personality, and commerce, Promise Road will engage visitors in a new understanding of and appreciation of our forgotten past and what it means for us today.

1st president of the Lincoln Highway Association Henry Joy in the mud (gumbo) - near La Mouille, Iowa June 1915.

The exhibit’s first stop was at the Greene County Historical Society in Jefferson, Iowa including a special presentation by Bob and Joyce Ausberger of rural Greene County, who helped found the new national Lincoln Highway Association in 1992, which now has hundreds of members across the country and around the world. It will eventually travel to all the 13 Iowa counties traversed by the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway.

In 2021, the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway in Iowa was recognized as a National Scenic Byway. The National Scenic Byways Program is a voluntary, community-based program administered through the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to recognize, protect, and promote America’s most outstanding roads.

Prairie Rivers of Iowa manages the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway in Iowa on behalf of the Iowa Department of Transportation.

Lincoln Highway Traveling Exhibit at Greene County Historical Museum

Marsh Rainbow Arch Bridges

Marsh Rainbow Arch Bridges

During our April meeting while discussing the bridge in Tama, we had a conversation about James Marsh and his Rainbow Arch Bridge designs along the Lincoln Highway. So I reached out to our resident experts, Bob and Joyce Ausberger for a history lesson on these bridges and their significance to the Lincoln Highway.

James Marsh was the builder and promoter of several Rainbow Arch Bridges. He graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. His company was N.E. Marsh & Son Construction Company in Des Moines. The bridge designs were formed by the conjunction of new technology, and reinforced concrete. The previous stone bridges were more expensive and labor-intensive.

By 1893 Marsh had constructed numerous bridges in Iowa – a three-mile elevated railroad structure in Sioux City and three bridges in Des Moines. Similar bridges were built in Montana, South Dakota, Minnesota, Colorado, and five other western states.

James Marsh Rainbow Arch Bridge Design

Patent Photo credit: wikipedia.org

Beaver Creek Bridge on the Border of Greene and Boone Counties in Iowa

Photo credit: bubbasgarage.com

The Marsh Rainbow Arch Bridge (known as Beaver Creek Bridge) is located on the Lincoln Highway on the border of Greene and Boone County in Ogden at 210th Street and was built in 1919. This bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.

Beaver Creek Bridge

Photo credit: Garry Gardner/wikipedia.org

Photo credit: John Zeller/Iowa DOT

Numerous single-span concrete arches can be found in rural Iowa, but multiple-span examples are rare. Moreover, among those concrete arches remaining in the state, the Eureka Mill Bridge is one of the earliest such arch structures designed by the state highway commission. We are fortunate to have these existing samples of these two types of bridges still remaining

This article was reprinted with permission from the Iowa Lincoln Highway Association Summer 2022 Newsletter, Volume 27, No, 2.