Momentum continues to build
For the Project Awaysis planners in Storm Lake, it's a matter of first things first.
While there hasn't been a lot of public discussion recently about some of the associated developments - such as a senior citizens center, skate park and nature interpretive center - all of those elements remain on the drawing board, waiting their turn.
"It's a matter of getting the first things done first," said Project Manager Mike Wilson. "All of those things are still on the board."
City officials are concentrating at the moment on choosing architectural and engineering professionals to draw up the development plans for the Awaysis lodge, waterpark and other elements. At the same time, they are negotiating to put management in place for the lodge, and to finalize the legal agreement with Vision Iowa which will dictate how the state funding will be delivered for the project.
"The process is to get the core of the project started, and then come back to some of those related projects. It would be hard to pinpoint a timeline for those projects now - in some cases they are going to happen as other parts of Awaysis get done," said city staffer Justin Yarosevich.
The senior center, planned to replace the aging location downtown, is considered part of the main Awaysis development, and will be looked at further after architects and engineers are brought on board for design work, Yarosevich said. It has not been determined where that building will fall in line in terms of order of developments, but the site is still expected to be near the area where the picnic shelter now stands near the campground.
The skate park concept was created with the help of a volunteer committee. No site has been selected for that development yet, and no timeline has been determined. Yarosevich noted that the skate park is not part of the current Awaysis funding package, but said there is some potential for state and private grants and corporate donations to be sought toward such a development in the future.
The interpretive center planned for the Little Storm Lake preserve area has a bit of a head-start as an associated project to Awaysis, since a federal appropriation has already been scheduled to provide some funding toward the project.
From the volunteer committee which helped to create the original concept, a sort of steering committee is forming up and continuing to meet. It will work to define the specific roles of the interpretive center, which will provide valuable information for use in seeking additional federal funding and donations from nature-related foundations.
"With the $250,000 in federal funding already approved, I would say that the interpretive center stands to be a little slower than the core part of Awaysis, but a little faster than, say, the skate park," Yarosevich said. "I think the steering committee would like to see it done in five years."
While a development of the scope of Awaysis involves countless details and a great deal of exacting planning before construction begins, Wilson said that the process is moving forward well.
"We are making progress. It's a matter of getting there one step at a time," said Wilson.
Fundraising efforts are also underway, with project leaders approaching the largest potential donors first. "Calls are being made, and the reception we have experienced has been good," Wilson said. "With large donations in particular, those decisions don't get made overnight, so we want to make sure to get the information to those people early on."
The first major donation came in recently from Tyson, which can only help build momentum for further fundraising, Wilson feels. "We feel very good about that."