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Roy Hughes helps haul beams into the work site as volunteers continue work on the Dream Playground build at Lake Manawa State Park on July 25, 2018.

The Loess Hills Missouri River Region Parks to People Plan has announced the commitment of $338,000 to a number of area parks, trails and cultural assets in the tri-county area.

The Loess Hills Missouri River Region organization is an effort to promote and improve attractions to enhance overall economic and community vitality in Pottawattamie, Harrison and Mills Counties. It is the state’s second Parks to People Region and is organized by Golden Hills Resource Conservation and Development of Oakland.

According to a release, the region board awarded the money to seven priority projects: the Harrison County Conservation Board’s Willow Lake Nature Center; Friends of Lake Manawa’s Dream Playground Re-Imagined; Mills County Trails Board’s Glenwood Trail Project; Mills County Conservation Board’s Pony Creek Expansion; West Nishnabotna River Accesses; and Overland Hiking Trail. Regional projects include the Lewis & Clark Today Route signage and Green Hill Ranch.

The selection and approval of the priority projects by the board will allow them to use the specified amounts as a match when seeking additional funds for the projects, according to the release. The projects represent more than $9.5 million in planned recreational improvements to the tri-county region. To date, more than $3.5 million of that has been secured or pledged toward their implementation.

“We have some of the most impressive natural and developed assets in the country,” said Shawn Koehler, Loess Hills Missouri River Region board chair. "Now it’s time to turn them into a destination.”

The money comes out of a $500,000 commitment to the plan from Mid-American Energy. Among the $338,000 is $100,000 for the Dream Playground.

“It’s going to help greatly,” said Barry Cleaveland with the Dream Playground Re-Imagined committee, who worked with Friends of Lake Manawa to apply for the grant.

The committee is working toward a $750,000 fundraising goal, a figure that includes $650,000 for construction materials for the facility and a $100,000 endowment for ongoing maintenance of the playground. Volunteers completed much of the work of the community build in late July, though Cleaveland said there’s still work to be done — and money to be raised.

“We were fortunate enough to be chosen by the Loess Hills Missouri River Region,” he said.

Fence pickets are still available for $100, with the donation coming with the ability to put up to 22 characters — including spaces — on them. Other sponsorship opportunities remain, Cleaveland said.

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Crews are preparing for the next — and third — phase of the playground build, which will include finishing playground elements, including putting roofs on top of elements, and securing handrails to make the play area accessible.

A number of plastic elements, including many slides, slated for the playground were lost in a warehouse fire in Carrollton, Georgia, in early July, delaying completion of the work.

For more information or to donate or volunteer, go to dreamplaygroundcb.org.

The Loess Hills Missouri River Region also awarded $100,000 to Willow Lake Nature Center in Harrison County, along with $50,000 to the Mills County Trails Board’s Glenwood Trail Project, $20,000 to the Mills County Conservation Board’s Pony Creek Expansion and $5,000 to the West Nishnabotna River Accesses.

Additionally, the board gave $38,000 toward Lewis & Clark Trail Today Route signage, $25,000 to Green Hill Ranch in Pottawattamie and Mills Counties and a to-be-announced amount to the Overland Hiking Trail in Harrison County.

The Today Route will span Woodbury County in the north, then head southward to Fremont County. It is being planned by the Frontier Iowa Trails Network.

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