A new plan to attract more people to area parks brought excitement to an important Iowan.

“I can’t wait to come back and see all the great things we’re doing,” said Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Reynolds was in Council Bluffs Friday to officially announce the selection of the Loess Hills Missouri River Region as the state’s second Parks to People Region, as well as the first major private investment to this regional plan by the MidAmerican Energy Foundation.

The purpose of the plan is to bring Pottawattamie, Harrison and Mills Counties, the Friends of Lake Manawa and other stakeholders together to work as one to create a better quality of life for current residents, attract more tourists, new residents and businesses.

“Our region is poised for more businesses, more residents,” said Shawn Koehler, chairman of the Loess Hills Missouri River Region steering committee.

The plan identifies five key focus areas, according to information provided at the announcement. They are the Loess Arts and Nature Loop, the Frontier Iowa Trails Network, the Loess Discovery Web, Ridges and Rivers: Explore and WanderLoess.com, an online platform to promote attractions and recreational opportunities in the region.

Some projects identified in the plan have already begun, Koehler said, such as the walking/biking trail connecting Council Bluffs and Neola and the Dream Playground at Lake Manawa. Additional projects may be added in the future, Koehler said.

“It’s a living document,” he said.

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Reynolds added this plan is timely as Iowa prepares for the 100th anniversary of the founding of its state parks in 2020. The plan has received a financial jumpstart with a $500,000 commitment from the MidAmerican Energy Foundation. The goal now is to seek matching funds.

That might not be all that difficult, based on a similar regional plan in another part of the state, it was mentioned at the announcement.

After just two years, 60 projects have been identified and 43 completed with an investment of $53 million, according to Mark Doll, treasurer of the Iowa Parks Foundation Board of Directors.

“That is simply incredible,” Doll said.

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