Three counties that are home to four state parks in northeast Iowa will serve as the first pilot area for a public-private partnership expected to pump at least $6 million into new amenities and improvements intended to better connect Iowans with outdoor recreational opportunities, television station KCRG reported.

“It’s a new dawn for the Iowa parks system,” said Joe Gunderson, president of the Iowa Parks Foundation, in announcing that Dubuque, Jackson and Jones counties were picked among four competing regions that offered long-term strategic plans to revitalize park systems in their parts of Iowa.

Gunderson said the Grant Wood Mississippi River region was selected for its potential for land and water trail development and its plans to expand infrastructure and to improve the structural, economic and community connections for the region’s four state parks and scenic byways.

Plans call for a nearly $2 million state appropriation from the Legislature, to be supplemented with contributions from local governments, businesses, non-profit organizations and individuals, equating to a three-to-one match that will be used to revitalize the area.

Larry “Buck” Koos, a member of the Jackson County Board of Supervisors from Lamont, said the three counties envision a regional plan that includes raising up to $4 million locally in cash, services or land for the effort.

Monday’s announcement at a news conference on the west steps of the state Capitol coincided with the arrival of a long-term and sustainable strategy developed by a special panel charged with formulating a 100-year vision for Iowa’s state parks system, said Robert Riley, a member of the Green Ribbon Commission, a private board of the Iowa Parks Foundation.

Gov. Terry Branstad said he believed the strategic recommendations can help create a lasting legacy for Iowa. With the approach of the 100th anniversary of the Iowa state parks system in 2020, the governor said he hoped state officials can partner with local communities to create regional projects that will have a positive impact on the health of Iowa’s people and its economy.

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