The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs recently announced it has designated or re-designated 19 areas as Iowa Great Places, including the Raccoon River Valley Trail in Dallas, Guthrie and Greene Counties.


Iowa Great Places are designated to support new and existing infrastructure that cultivates unique and authentic qualities of neighborhoods, communities and regions in Iowa. Overall, the state now recognizes 40 Iowa Great Places communities and eight Cultural and Entertainment Districts. Seventeen Iowa Great Places were re-designated during the 2019 cycle, and Lake View and the Clive Greenbelt are new additions this year.


The “In the Shadow of the Rails” art installation currently located in Waukee, Perry, Dallas Center, Minburn, Cooper, Jefferson, and, planned for Adel, connects these communities in a unique way. The art installations, based on a concept created by RDG of Des Moines, is led by artist David Dahlquist. It plays on the region’s railroad history and the repurposing of the rail line as a public trail system, which continues to serve and connect the same original rail communities. Establishing a culturally relevant and unifying art theme for the trail corridor speaks to the uniqueness of the area.


Re-designation of the Raccoon River Valley Trail as an Iowa Great Place moves forward the development of this nationally recognized recreation trail as a Public Art and Cultural Corridor. This regional designation is built upon partnerships working toward a common vision. The 89-mile multi-use recreational trail includes collaboration from 14 trail communities, 3 counties, and the Raccoon River Valley Trail Association. It has gained status as one of Iowa’s highest quality and most popular trail systems.


Dallas County Conservation Board Director Mike Wallace was delighted with the re-designation. “This recognition goes to show how noteworthy it is to expand the network of trails by linking the Raccoon River Valley and High Trestle Trails between Perry and Woodward,” he said.


As a testament to the reach of the Great Place designation, the “In the Shadow of the Rails” was recently featured in the national Rails-to-Trails Magazine. Sections of the Raccoon River Valley Trail were also included in the recently announced Great American Trail route which, when fully completed, will link Washington D.C. to Washington State.