Community Members

Community members gathered to discuss a series of county-wide projects with the Iowa Initiatives for Sustainable Communities group from the University of Iowa.

Visions of a more appealing, stabilized Hurstville Lime Kilns danced in the heads of Bonnie Mitchell and Jack Willey of the Jackson County Historical Society, which owns the kilns.

Those visions included platforms with glass floors built atop the kilns so visitors could look inside, a walking trail to circumnavigate the kilns property, more parking, and structure stabilization of the limestone walls connecting the kilns, the rock-crusher structure, and what remains of the bridge that once led to the rock quarry.

Two thoughts circulated through the minds of Willey and Mitchell after University of Iowa graduate students in the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities (IISC) program finished presenting their improvement ideas during public meetings held Thursday, May 5.

“When can we start?” Willey, laughing, asked the students.

“I think we’re going to have to bake a lot of cookies” if the JCHS chooses to follow through with the IISC enhancement suggestions, Mitchell said.

That represented only one of the half-dozen final presentations given May 5 as part of a partnership between the IISC and multiple municipal and nonprofit entities around Jackson County. In total, Jackson County entities worked with IISC on about two dozen total projects during the 2021-22 academic year.

Hundreds of people turned out to listen to the various presentations being given by the U of I students.

Over the last year, about 200 University of Iowa students have worked with eastern Iowa officials and residents to complete the legwork on projects scattered across Jackson County and the Maquoketa River Watershed Management Authority.

The students are part of the IISC, which connects the college with local communities to complete mutually beneficial projects. The students come from a variety of disciplines, from law to engineering to art.

IISC students received practical experience in their chosen career fields while the participating groups receive objective, professional guidance, ideas, and recommendations that can advance their chosen projects.

The JCEA and Maquoketa Watershed group contacted various municipalities and nonprofits to measure their interest in a partnership with IISC. The IISC guaranteed members would work on 15 proposed projects — but it would come with a $50,000 price tag, which was paid through a grant and the participating entities.

The two hours of presentations May 5 culminated in a social gathering and wrap-up meeting at Maquoketa Brewing late Thursday afternoon.

The entities that participated in the IISC program each will receive copies of the plans and presentations their teams created. The decision of whether, or if, to proceed with any of the suggestions remains in the hands of the entities.

Mitchell and Willey of the Jackson County Historical Society said they needed to take the Hurstville Lime Kilns suggestions to their board for further discussion but were excited about what they heard.

Local 2021-22 IISC topics

Hurstville Lime Kilns:

Two groups of engineering students worked on this project for the Jackson County Historical Society. One evaluated drainage/flooding issues and the other looked at ways to enhance the visitor experience by providing improved interpretive signs and accessibility to various parts of this historic site.

Preston Sidewalk/Trail

A group of students looked at the Preston community to make the city more walkable. This includes safe routes to schools, and sidewalks, and potential trail extensions.

Sabula Dock

The students in this group helped the city of Sabula look at the antiquated municipal dock. They designed a new dock system and made recommendations on how to increase its usage for people on the river looking for a place to dock.

Maquoketa Subdivision Site Development

This group analyzed the farmland on the south end of town that lies east of Dollar Fresh. They laid out a conceptual plat of connecting streets, utility extensions, and drainage ways should this property be annexed and developed in the future.

Maquoketa Onboarding/Goal Setting

This group worked with city staff and elected officials to develop a plan for bringing on newly elected officials and helping the council take a serious look at establishing goals.

Jackson County Clean Energy Plan

This project has been a year-long study, not one semester like the other projects). They examined county-owned buildings to see if solar energy is feasible for any of these sites. They also have looked at Springbrook to see if the city could have a community-based solar system.

Maquoketa River Watershed Management

The Maquoketa River Watershed students worked with officials for a second year, focusing this time on marketing, outreach, events, training, certification and technical analyses of various topics.

Farmers Market

This student group is looking ways to improve/enhance the local farmers market. They are considering the feasibility of collaborating/partnering with other area Farmers Market groups. They are also looking for ways to make the Maquoketa Farmers Market sustainable.

Bellevue Downtown Parking Study

A student worked with the Jackson County Economic Alliance and the city of Bellevue to assess downtown parking and make recommendations for improvements.

Marketing and Branding

Student teams competed against each other to develop new branding for the cities of Bellevue, Preston and Sabula.

Innovate 120: Sustainability, Marketing

Student teams developed marketing and communications campaigns to build broad community awareness of Innovate 120.

Jackson County Historical Society Technical Solutions Evaluation

Graduate students partnered with the JCHS to perform a technical evaluation to build an online compendium of Jackson County history.

Maquoketa Arts Non-Profits - Organizational Collaboration, Management

Students developed frameworks for interagency collaboration and strategic planning for local arts organizations in Maquoketa.

Maquoketa Gender Equity Policy Study

Students worked with Maquoketa leaders to develop a set of proposed policy solutions to balance the gender distribution of individuals in public positions.

Maquoketa Stormwater Management

Civil engineering students completed an evaluation and redesign of a land use master plan for unincorporated land in Maquoketa.

Maquoketa Volunteerism Policy Study

Students worked with Maquoketa leaders to develop a set of proposed policy solutions for increasing civic volunteerism across all demographics in Maquoketa.

Maquoketa Welcoming Newcomers Policy Study

Students worked with Maquoketa leaders to develop a set of proposed policy initiatives for welcoming newcomers to the Maquoketa community.

Maquoketa Youth Engagement Policy

Students worked with key stakeholders in Maquoketa to develop proposed policy initiatives to enhance youth civic engagement opportunities and community involvement.

Maquoketa/Jackson County Workforce Housing Policy Study

Students worked with key stakeholders to develop proposed policy solutions for creating additional workforce housing options for Maquoketa residents.

Preston Harvest Heights Subdivision Marketing Plan

Two students developed marketing strategies and materials to promote the sale of lots in the city of Preston’s new subdivision, Harvest Heights.

Preston Sewer and Water GIS Mapping

Students will map the current sewer and water system in Preston using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tools.