Driftless Area Wetlands Centre recognizes those who helped make centre a reality
By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor
In 2008, Marquette and McGregor received a “Great Place” designation, and a $325,000 grant award to go with it, from the Iowa Great Places program for their plans to develop the Driftless Area Wetlands Centre and its surrounding area, as well as the McGregor-Marquette Center for the Arts. The two cities and the MFL MarMac School District first came together in 2007 to try to receive the joint designation, but were not successful.
“They told us, in essence, that we were not a Great Place,” said Sasha Dull, current Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital marketing director and former McGregor-Marquette Chamber of Commerce executive director, who helped orchestrate the designation. “But we did not believe them.”
So they tried again. Dull spoke at the Driftless Area Wetlands Centre (which was completed this year) on Dec. 5, during an event that recognized the donors and partners who helped make the centre a reality.
“It was just a grassroots effort of forward-thinking, future-focused volunteers,” Dull continued. “You don’t see that type of collaboration every day. I am proud to be a small piece of that.”
Former Wetlands Centre Board Member Donna Kinley also spoke to the crowd, recognizing the donors, as well as current and former board members, the architects at Shive-Hattery and the general contractor—Pellock Construction.
Once the Mar-Mac area was recognized as a Great Place, Kinley said the Wetlands Centre project really took off, as the designation paved the way for other funding.
“It was key in convincing state entities that we deserved this and that we were serious,” Kinley said.
That other funding included grants from the cities of Marquette and McGregor, the MFL MarMac School District, the Iowa DNR’s Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program, the Upper Mississippi Gaming Corporation, Clayton County Foundation for the Future, Iowa Living Roadways, Alpine Communications and the Walmart Foundation. Private contributions were also brought in from over 30 local businesses, foundations and community members. To date, the Wetlands Centre has received a total of $1,145,250 in grant funding and $118,750 in private contributions.
“A lot of folks contributed time, ideas and a lot of work,” Kinley said, echoing Dull’s sentiments. “I very much support the goals of this facility. It’s a community center, but it’s also about learning about and respecting the environment and carrying that forward.”
Wetlands Centre Director Katrina Moyna, who took the position in August, has been tasked with carrying the Wetlands Centre and its programs forward. Moyna also spoke at the event, highlighting some of what the centre offers, as well as the programs it hopes to incorporate.
The Wetlands Centre already offers educational opportunities for students and adults alike to learn about the natural world and local environments—everything from local plant and animal species to the area’s geological history. During the summer, the Wetlands Centre holds its Friday Night Live farmers market. It has featured the Winter Holidays Expo this winter.
In the future, the Wetlands Centre will collaborate with area entities like Effigy Mounds and the Fish and Wildlife Service for events and presentations. The MFL MarMac School District will also use the centre for outdoor and science education opportunities, including an upcoming astronomy night. The Centre hopes to construct a campground and become a trail hub as well.
“Tourists and locals alike can learn about the area [at the Wetlands Centre],” Moyna said. “Getting kids outside is a major focus, and the elderly too. It’s important for all to get connected with nature, no matter the age.”
Moyna, an Elkader native who graduated from Clarke University with a degree in biology, remarked that, in 2008, when the cities received the Great Places designation, she was just graduating from high school. She was impressed with the amount that has been accomplished in such a short amount of time. She is also excited for the future and what the Wetlands Centre can bring to the surrounding communities.
“I’m so thankful for what we have here. We can step outside our doors and see nature every day,” Moyna said about the area. “[The Wetlands Centre] is the culmination of everything we have here—not just the natural beauty, but the people here.”