By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
An almost two-year project has finally come to life!
Working in collaboration with the City of Monticello, Richard Schneiter pursued a $100,000 grant from the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) for the purpose of planting a variety of trees along the Highway 151 Bypass. For the past year and a half, Schneiter had been working hard on drawing up plans for the plantings and where certain trees would be placed. He finally submitted the final plans to the DOT a few weeks ago. Within a week, he received the phone call he’d been waiting for!
The DOT Living Roadways Grant was going to award Monticello $100,000.
“We can apply for the $100,000 grant for up to 10 years,” explained Schneiter, essentially receiving $1 million in the end.
The 5-mile stretch of Highway 151 will be spruced up with a wide variety of colorful, seasonal trees along both the north- and south-bound lanes. Schneiter said nothing can be planted in the median. The stretch runs approximately north of Midwestern Bio-Ag to Richland Road, across the Maquoketa River.
“Doug mentioned this grant to me two years ago,” Schneiter said referring to Monticello City Administrator Doug Herman. “I said, ‘It’s too bad we can’t do something along the bypass.’”
Soon, the two met with representatives from the DOT, who urged the city to do something for this project.
“If we didn’t apply and try for the grant, then someone else would have gotten the funding,” Schneiter said. “Monticello needs this!”
By this time, the city (Herman) was busy pursuing flood buy-out properties along Kitty Creek, so Schneiter said he got permission to take over the DOT project and “get it done.”
After several versions of plans and drawings, things are moving along.
“The DOT requires a lot,” Schneiter said.
He also had to keep in mind that any trees planted in or around the Monticello Regional Airport could not be more than 30 feet tall. He said he also had to consider snow removal off the highway and whether the trees would act as a barrier from the snowdrifts.
“It was a real challenge,” he said. He had to physically study the stretch of highway in question to know where the hills are and how much room there is between signs to plant trees.
“I was told most people would not have waited it out this long,” Schneiter said of the timeframe it took to accomplish a project of this magnitude.
The first $100,000 grant (Yes, Schneiter is now pursuing the second $100,000 grant.) will cover planting materials, purchase of trees, stakes to harness the trees to the ground, mulch and more.
The types of trees that will lend themselves to this project include: Sun Valley Maple, Brandywine Maple, Crabapples, Royal Raindrop, Profusion trees, Japanese Lilacs and more.
“We want to have a lot of color,” Schneiter expressed.
With many years of experience in the gardening and tree planting business (Schneiter used to own and operate Sunset Greenhouse outside of town.), it only seemed natural for Schneiter to take this project on.
“It’s a great investment by the state,” he said.
Throughout the course of planning for this project, the city formed a Tree Board. The group is made up of Mike Meshak, Schneiter, Russ Hodge and City Council Liaison Dave Goedken.
“There are hundreds of trees dying all over town,” remarked Schneiter. He said there are so many places in Monticello that could benefit from new tree plantings: Second Street, the schools, the Kitty Creek area, the city park/fairgrounds green space and other residential areas. All are on the Tree Board’s agenda for sometime in the near future.
While the timeline for planting has not been established yet, Schneiter said there could be plenty of opportunities for service organizations and volunteers to be a part of this project, so stay tuned…