The location for the proposed Loess Hills Archaeological Interpretive Center has been approved by the Iowa Preserves Advisory Board and the search for project funding is beginning.

The location, recommended by the local group planning the center, is on a state preserve at the south edge of Glenwood. The exact site is at the junction of US Highway 34 and Levi Road, the location of what is currently known as Foothills Park.

“This is the news we have been eagerly awaiting. Now we can swing into high gear for fundraising,” said Jean Jaskierny of Glenwood, vice president of The Loess Hills Archaeological Interpretive Center board of directors.

The multi-million dollar center has been in the planning stage for four years. It will be devoted to shedding more light on the earthen-lodge-dwelling Native Americans who lived in the extreme western Iowa and eastern Nebraska area between 600 and 750 years ago. Members of the Glenwood Area Chamber of Commerce were briefed on the progress of the project Thursday evening (Nov. 14) during a chamber gathering.

The 907-acre preserve, Iowa’s largest, was previously a part of the state-operated Glenwood Resource Center and is mainly crop land. The re-designation as a preserve was hastened by the evidence that beneath the surface of the tract lie the remains of dozens upon dozens of earth lodges, ancient camping areas and ancient agricultural pursuits. About 30 such sites have been documented over the years.

Jaskierny said the center is envisioned as being not only a significant tourist attraction, but specifically as a major facility for on-going archaeological study of the ancient Americans, which archeologists have named “The Glenwood Culture.”

Current estimates of the project cost are in the range of $8 million to $9 million, said Rob Simmon, head of the local board’s fund-gathering effort. Simmon, of rural Glenwood, said he expects a major part of the funding will come from regional and national sources. Simmon said he also expects some families and organizations to honor specific persons or groups by financing areas of the center which would then bear the honoree’s name.

The soon-to-be-completed new US Highway 34 bridge across the Missouri River will greatly increase the traffic past the site and thus increase tourists’ stops there, center planners say.

“I just don’t think many Glenwood residents and business people realize what the influx of tourists will be in terms of new businesses and expansion of such things as restaurants, service stations, motels and the like,” said Jaskierny. She noted that studies show 370,232 persons live within a 30-minute drive of the center site and 1,863,695 live within a 2-hour drive.

Several Midwestern Colleges, Universities and area high schools, when contacted, have shown interest in being a part of the archeological studies that will continue on the preserve and in the interpretive center.

Detailed blueprints for the center have not yet been produced, “but we already have a professionally produced 45-page full-color document that we can present to prospective funding sources as we seek grants and donations from foundations, corporations, trusts companies and individuals, “ said Simmon.

Preliminary estimates indicate the center would need in the neighborhood of 18,000 square feet to properly display and explain the Glenwood Culture materials and to provide work space for ongoing archeological studies, he said.

The document, prepared by nationally recognized firms of Armadillo Arts and Metzger Johnson Architects, includes not only the known history of the Glenwood Culture Native Americans, but also information on earth lodge sites and artifacts already unearthed, plus sketches of what the center might look like.

The State Preserves Advisory Board has ruled that no construction or site work can begin until the Interpretive Center Board of Directors has in hand enough funds or funding pledges to cover all construction costs. Thus, Simmon said, no date for groundbreaking has been set. He said it is hoped the center could be opened by the end of 2016.

Simmon noted that funds will also be set aside for an endowment fund to help sustain operation of the center after its opening.

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