Eye 380 beautifies portions of Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha interstate

Winter is probably not the best time to be thinking about planting or landscaping, but for Eye 380 it’s a year-round goal.

Eye 380 is a group of volunteers committed to improving the landscaping along Interstate 380 in Cedar Rapids and Hiawatha. The group has launched its annual drive to raise money for maintenance of four sites and add a fifth, if they are able to obtain support from the community.

The organization was formed in 2008 through the efforts of Dale Kueter, of Cedar Rapids, and others who shared his vision.

Kueter, a retired journalist, said he was vacationing in Tucson, Ariz. when he noticed how nice the landscaping was as he drove along their highways and interstates.

He brought the idea home with him and talked to a few people, who agreed to help him initiate the plan.

“We just weren’t sure where to go from there,” he said.

He researched programs they could initiate and saw that Davenport and Des Moines had a similar program through the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT).

The small group invited more people to join, got the green light from the Hiawatha City Council, and asked the city to apply for grants that would help them fund the project. They found that while the grant would pay for individual landscaping projects, they would only fund the planting of the plants, not the maintenance.

Members of the group also took a horticulture class at Kirkwood, where they learned the different types of shrubbery and trees, and even had the class make up schemes for the landscaping projects.

Since the program began, the group has planted flowers, trees, and shrubs at the Boyson Road interchange in Hiawatha, the Kirkwood exit in south Cedar Rapids, and two sites south of Wilson Avenue SW in Cedar Rapids.

Kueter said that because access to the sites are dangerous, maintenance for the landscaping, such as weeding, watering, and pruning, must be performed by bonded landscaping companies.

Kueter, who will be serving as co-president with Leland Freie for 2015, said a fifth project is in the works, but maintenance for the other sites is also a priority.

The grants for the projects vary, but since it only includes the planting, the group needs help from the community to fund the maintenance of the plants to keep them looking good.

“Everyone wants it to look pretty, but no one wants to contribute,” he said. “But we’ll keep plugging along and raise what we can.”

Kueter said he believes that people who drive along I380 tend to judge the cities by what they see from the interstate.

“We see the interstate as our main street,” he said. “”What travelers see reflects Cedar Rapids and Hiawatha.”

Eye 380 meets at Trees Forever, 770 7th Ave., Marion, the first Wednesday of the month at 4 p.m.

For more information, call Dale Kueter at (319) 377-2630.

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