The Cedar River flows right through the middle of Waverly, Iowa, a picturesque and progressive community that’s home to Wartburg College in the northeast part of the state. For a community with just more than 10,000 residents, Waverly has a lot to offer: two 18-hole golf courses, miles of trails, more than 20 parks, and two thriving community gardens that have provided fresh fruits and vegetables (along with quality gardening opportunities) to residents for more than a decade.
If you look at the projects they’ve done over the last few years, it’s clear that Waverly residents take a lot of pride in their community. So, it should come as no surprise that Waverly won the Healthy Hometown Powered by Wellmark Community Award for the second year in a row. And, in 2020, they added six more raised beds to their community gardens, improved the Cedar River Parkway corridor, completed a streetscape project for Bremer Avenue, and enhanced a neighborhood park by adding a shelter house and pickleball courts.
These projects all came to life after the Waverly Area Partnership for Healthy Living (WAPHL) approached Healthy Hometown in late 2018 for help with making Waverly a better place for residents to live, work, and play.
“To be a repeat winner, it’s just been great,” says Garret Riordan, who leads the WAPHL group. “The recognition that we get for that is amazing. It’s exciting for the community that we were able to win two years in a row." Learn more about the projects that led to this win.
Completed the Bremer Avenue streetscape project
When the Waverly City Council began discussing a 28-block reconstruction project on centrally located Bremer Avenue/Highway 3 in 2016, a Chamber of Commerce committee proposed a streetscape project. They hoped it would both improve the look and feel of the road, as well as increase safety for residents.
The approved streetscape project included a focus on improving street furniture, trash bins, bike racks, landscaping, water features, informational and directional signs, public art, lighting, sidewalks, and gathering spaces. The proposal also included several bump-outs and enhancements to crosswalks in the downtown district to make it safer for residents navigating the area on foot. The streetscape project was officially completed mid-2020, and the Chamber has plans to add planter decorations with each season to create an inviting environment for downtown businesses.
The city also implemented a matching grant program that many business owners took advantage of to add awnings, signage and refreshed looks to their storefronts.
Improved the Cedar River Parkway corridor
When a project has been part of a community’s growth plan for nearly 50 years, you know it’s a big deal. Reconstruction work on the Cedar River Parkway began two decades ago, but the final mile of the corridor — which runs from 8th Street SE to Highway 3 East — was the most impactful. This is because it includes a bridge crossing of the Cedar River, providing the only 500-year flood-resistant crossing for Waverly. It's also the longest bridge in Bremer County.
This scenic section of the Parkway also includes a wide trail for pedestrians and cyclists. The trail joins up with Waverly Rail Trail, completing a segment of the regional 40-mile Rolling Prairie Trail and connecting east Waverly residents to the youth soccer complex, the new Cedar River Park youth ball diamonds, and Waverly-Shell Rock schools.
The improvements to the Cedar River Parkway also provide some congestion relief for downtown Waverly, giving commuter and truck traffic an alternate route around downtown’s Bremer Avenue. As Waverly continues to grow, this project will meet the needs of the community for years to come.
Continued to grow community gardens
The Waverly Community Sharing Gardens have been a well-known part of the community since 2010, providing residents with quality gardening opportunities and fresh food for those in need. The gardens, which cover two key locations in Waverly, now total 75 raised beds and 62 fruit trees. In 2020, the Community Sharing Gardens — which are manned completely by volunteers — grew and donated nearly 9,000 pounds of fresh, healthy produce to local churches, social service groups, and the Northeast Iowa Food Bank.
Don’t be surprised if you read about more growth for the gardens next year — future planned enhancements include a water line extension to allow two times the area to be watered at one time, increasing convenience for the volunteers who tend to and community members who rent raised beds in the sharing gardens.
Added resident-led enhancements to a local park
When Waverly residents put their minds to something, it gets done. Such was the case with the enhancements made to Prairie Park, which is nestled in a newer neighborhood in northeast Waverly. “This is a pretty tight-knit neighborhood,” Riordan says. “Everyone regularly meets in the park to get together.” Neighborhood residents approached the city with the idea of adding a shelter, basketball court, and pickleball courts to the park — asking for some funding from the city but committing to raising nearly half of the cost on their own.
“The total cost of the project ended up being around $40,000,” Riordan says. “The city was in for about $24,000, and the rest was funded by the neighborhood donations and a grant from the Bremer County Community Foundation.” The project not only benefits the nearby neighborhood — all Waverly residents now have an expanded place to get outdoors and enjoy the community’s only pickleball court. “It truly was an example of awesome community partnership,” Riordan adds. “All parties involved stepped up to the plate and did their part to complete the project on time and within budget.”
Inspired by Waverly’s success?
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