- Associated Press - Monday, September 29, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Nearly $2 million in state funding will go to enhance parks and recreation offerings in three eastern Iowa counties, Gov. Terry Branstad announced Monday.

Branstad said the Grant Wood Mississippi River Region will be the pilot project in a long-term effort to enhance Iowa’s parks.

The region - which includes Jones, Jackson and Dubuque counties - will come up with a plan by early 2015 to improve the four state parks in the area, as well as the county and municipal parks.

Officials said the regional leaders wil seek about $6 million in private contributions, both monetary and in-kind donations. Improvements could include building cabins or developing an additional park.

Branstad said the effort was key to maintaining and improving the state for the future.

“We all share a love of the activities in the Iowa state parks,” he said.

Branstad said he hoped to see more state funds allocated to these efforts in the future, though he declined to give an amount.

Former U.S. Rep. Neal Smith, who represented the state in Congress from 1959 through 1995, got a laugh from the crowd assembled at the state Capitol when he said things have changed a lot in the state park system over the years.

“They mentioned marketing and Dubuque,” he said, referring to comments about the plan. “Back in the ‘50s, if you mentioned marketing and Dubuque, you thought right away about bootleggers.”

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