Visible progress being made on new interpretive center at Columbus Bridge

by B.J. Tomlinson

Last year, the Allamakee County Conservation Board (ACCB) was awarded a $1.3 million grant by the National Scenic Byways Program to construct the Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center south of Lansing at the Columbus Bridge on Village Creek. The Center will provide meeting rooms, educational displays and programs related to natural resources, agriculture, commercial fishing, history of Allamakee County and much more.
Now, progress on one part of the project is actually visible. An ADA accessible handicap fishing access area along Village Creek is  complete except for the addition of a concrete path next spring. Jim Janett, ACCB Director, said the Allamakee County Community Foundation (ACCF) and an additional $30,000 grant from the DNR Fish Habitat Program provided funds for streambank stabilization and construction of the public fishing area.
The next phase is already underway. Requests for Proposals (RFPs)  have been sent to architects, engineers and interpretive services. The Conservation Board will review the proposal designs, interview the candidates and select the final design team.  Janett said the team should be on board by the end of January. The ACCB will solicit public input and bid letting will take place later in the year.
 The site of the center is a bit more than an acre of land south of Lansing that was originally owned by Allamakee County and for many years was rented out for trailer units. The concept of utilizing the property for its "highest and best use" was originated in 1991 by the DNR's REAP (Resource Enhancement and Protection) plan. Management and development of the land was turned over to the Conservation Board in 2007 and the trailers were removed.
Other organizations have helped move the project forward, including $12,000 from the ACCF, support from the Northeast Iowa Resource and Development office and the Allamakee County Board of Supervisors. Janett estimates that the additional $1 million needed to complete the building project will be provided by grants, matching funds and private individuals. The Allamakee County Conservation Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization, is expected to provide ongoing operational funding.

But for now, public access to a great fishing spot is exciting news for area sportsmen and a great asset to Lansing and Allamakee County.