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Huxley is 2014 Community Visioning Program participant

Huxley residents will soon have the opportunity to help improve their community’s local landscape and transportation. The city has been selected as one of ten Iowa communities to participate in the Iowa’s Living Roadway Community Visioning Program for 2014.

The first meeting of the assessment phase will be held March 31 at the City Council Chambers at 515 N. Main Ave. in Huxley. Past improvements have included safer sidewalk routes for kids to get to and from school, new signs from highways passing through or near a town and connecting a town to a local trail system.

Huxley was one of ten cities with a population of under 10,000 approved for the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) program in 2014. Like the previous 205 selected cities across the state since 1996, Huxley will have support from not only their community, but also the IDOT, ISU landscape architecture students and Trees Forever.

The planning process involves an assessment phase where residents will have a chance to identify what they’re proud of, as well as any challenges they see around their community. This is followed by a design phase involving professional landscape architects (supported by Iowa State University students in the landscape architecture program) and lastly the implementation phase. This year will be devoted to the assessment phase, which typically wraps up in October. Huxley’s volunteer steering committee will work closely with Trees Forever Field Coordinator Leslie Berckes to facilitate feedback on the city’s needs according to residents.

“Our role is to help the community think through all of its transportation issues and also help involve more of the community,” said Berckes. “Usually once community members come to the meetings, they realize how important their voice is to the process.”

Once a city is ready for implementation, Trees Forever also helps identify funding sources like grants. Sources in the past have ranged from the state’s Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP), county community foundations and private foundations set aside by past residents.

Selden Spencer, a member of the steering committee as well as the Huxley Tree Board, feels that the residents of his community will identify Highway 69 in their project. The north-south roadway is the main artery of Huxley and sees relatively heavy traffic due to the city’s location between Ames and Ankeny.

“Highway 69 was our area of interest [when submitting Huxley’s application],” said Spencer, “The way we pitched it was looking at where it intersects with the Heart of Iowa Trail and making that more attractive. The highway is fundamental to Huxley, but we wanted to make it easier for citizens to cross it and maybe beautify it at the same time.”

Huxley can look to another Story County community to see examples of the process after completion. After their assessment phase throughout 2012, the Colo steering committee developed proposals for a trail connecting to nearby Hickory Grove Lake, community signage, pedestrian connections and beautification projects.

Other members of the Huxley steering committee are Travis Bakken, Kevin Cole, Wayne Messer, Mark Miller, Dennis Parameter and Tim Wilson.

“Community participation really depends on how committed that local steering committee is about getting fellow citizens involved,” said Berckes.

“It may not be earth-changing but it’s still a positive and I’m very grateful to Trees Forever,” said Spencer. “I’m always interested in what creative people can come up with – maybe there will be some interesting and unusual ideas that will make our town more beautiful.”

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