A statewide project is being piloted right here in the Quad Cities Area. 

It’s called the Parks to People Initiative. 

The goal is to connect more Iowans to their outdoor spaces. 

And four local counties are spearheading the program. 

“We’re trying to connect these communities with their recreation areas,” says Nicolas Hockenberry, economic development director at Jackson County Economic Alliance.

In 2014, Jackson, Jones and Dubuque counties got nearly two million dollars to bring their vision to life. 

“Trails were really important to us as we try to connect these communities with recreation areas and natural spaces and other things like lake restoration and conservation efforts,” Hockenberry says.

The counties call themselves the Grantwood Loop and they’ve come up with dozens of projects totaling $55 million. 

“Which, at first sounded a little daunting,” admits Hockenberry 

But the group has already raised more than $53 million through public and private funds. 

Part of that has gone towards building the Prairie Creek Recreation Center in Maquoketa. 

“A lot of the reasons why we were able to help the county conservation develop this park this quickly was because of this parks to people initiative; we had a lot of regional interest,” Hockenberry says. 

Members of the Grantwood Loop say developing recreation also helps develop communities.

“We’ve had a lot of growth in that realm and we want to make sure even the smaller communities like Maquoketa, Monticello, really capitalize on what they have to offer so that they’ll attract and retain residents in the area,” says Hockenberry. 

And that’s why even after their state deadline expires at the end of the year, Grantwood Loop members also have a 20-year plan. 

“We think that in the long term, that’s the strength of this area and we should really build to the future of that,” Hockenberry says.