(Okoboji)– Some preliminary plans for the first of what organizers hope will become a three-phase project to beautify and enhance the Highway 71 corridor through the Iowa Great Lakes were unveiled at a public informational meeting Tuesday evening in Okoboji. It’s been dubbed “Imagine Iowa Great Lakes”.

The total cost of the first phase, said to be $10 million dollars, has been contributed by a group of private donors. The total budget for all three phases was pegged at roughly $31 million. Terry Lutz, a seasonal resident of the Iowa Great Lakes and the head of Clive-based McClure Engineering, told the crowd it isn’t certain if the same group of private donors will also foot the bill for the other two phases of the project, should those even move forward. Lutz says no tax payer money will be used in any way… PlayStop

“I want everyone to understand this is not a city project, it is not a county project, it is not a D.O.T project, it is privately funded through a non-profit and the structure is being set as we said. Now have said that, obviously we will be working in three or four different cities. We’ll also be working D.O.T right-of-way, we’ll be working in Arnolds Park. So there’s a lot of moving parts with regard to the regulatory agencies including the Department of Natural Resources, the DNR, we’re hoping to enhance some of the parks. So there’s a myriad of agencies like that. But keep in mind this is a privately funded through a non-profit.”

The first phase includes landscape improvements near the bridge over East and West Lake Okoboji, the promenade area along Lake Street near the Central Emporium in Arnolds Park, the Arnolds Park waterfront, the intersection of Highway 71 and Lake Street in Arnolds Park, and Highways 9 and 71 near Kum ‘n Go in Spirit Lake.

The question of how future maintenance costs of the improvements would be handled was also brought up. Lutz said they’ve been in contact with the donor group requesting an endowment be established for that purpose…PlayStop

“We’re looking at possibly starting, if the donor so chooses, to start funding the endowment next year with, we suggested $3 million. We’re suggesting a $5 million to $6 million endowment fund specifically for that purpose that you brought up. There’s no way we can expect the local cities or county to pay for what’s probably a $300,000 or $400,000 annual budget to keep this stuff alive and looking good.”

Lutz added the donor group is not interested in funding any physical or infrastructure improvements to Highway 71, but added they would like to see atleast one round-a-bout as a part of any future changes to the road itself.

Plans call for construction on the first phase this coming fall, with work continuing through 2019 and into the spring of 2020.