The year was 1985 and Grinnell, like many other small rural communities, had been hit hard by the farm crisis. Rather than sit back and await their fate, a group of community leaders led by Sharp Lannom joined together and formed an organization that would rejuvenate the community and encourage progress for many years to come. The organization was originally known as the Grinnell 2000 Foundation and the idea was to create the best community they could imagine by the year 2000. The name was changed to Imagine Grinnell after 2000, but the idea remained the same: a group of citizens dedicated to envisioning the things that would make a better community who joined together to work to make them a reality. Over the years the organization has played a role, frequently a major role but often acting in collaboration with other groups, in a wide range of community improvements:
- Started the first Farmer’s Market in 1986
- Implemented a volunteer run recycling facility in 1990 which evolved into one of the first city recycling centers in the state. Collaborated with the city to move to curbside recycling in the mid-1990s (first in the state) and in 2012 to single stream recycling.
- Coordinated fundraising and construction of the Central Park Gazebo in 1990 and helped coordinate summer music events prior to the Grinnell Area Arts Council taking this over.
- Worked with Trees Forever to encourage tree planting by individuals, at area schools and numerous other locations.
- Conducted the Grinnell Day Care Study in 1992 and helped with the establishment of the current Grinnell Community Day Care Center.
- Collaborated with the City on improvements to the Arbor Lake recreation area, including the Hudson Memorial Prairie, the Arbor Lake Watershed Improvement Program, and trail improvement and expansion.
- Fundraising and coordination of installation of playground equipment at Central Park in 1996 and Merrill Park in 2001.
- Helped establish the Galaxy Youth Center in 2001. Prior to that worked with the The Limit youth center in the 90’s.
- Created the Grinnell Area Local Foods Alliance in 2002 to encourage local food awareness and availability. Continue to work on programs to increase local food awareness and options.
- Instrumental in planning and fundraising for the Grinnell Area Recreation Trail. Worked with city and county officials to raise funds through grants and private fundraising to expand the trail. Phase I from GHS to Rock Creek opened in 2004. Phase 2 from Arbor Lake to Industrial Avenue was completed in 2010. Completion of an underpass of Highway 6 to connect the two sections is fully funded and expected to be constructed in 2013.
- Coordinated community e-waste collections starting in 2005 and running through 2008 when e-waste was added to the ongoing collection options at the county landfill.
- Managed the E-Community energy conservation program in 2005-6. This hugely successful Alliant Energy incentive program resulted in $271,000 given to the organization to support community programming. Funds have been used to enhance energy programs, expand the recreation trail, and support community park development.
- 2008 established the Grinnell Energy Lending Library, collaborating with the public library to provide area residents with tools for evaluating energy efficiency and provide resources for green lifestyle options.
- Partnered with Grinnell Middle School in 2010 to secure grant funds to install a solar array for energy reduction and education.
- 2011 helped expand the Community Garden located at Lake Nyanza. In addition to community member plots, work with area youth programs to teach gardening programs to children and offer a series of gardening programs to community members.
- 2014 expansion of the Grinnell Area Recration Trail to reach 22 miles stretching to Rock Creek State Park with further improvements planned for 2016.
- 2015 partnered with Ideal Energy to hand out 70 proposals for solar panel installations with 8 approved installations to come.
Plans for the future include further expansion of the Grinnell Area Recreation Trail, ongoing work with the Community Garden and promotion of local foods, support for energy and conservation programs, and more. If you want to help encourage and guide future improvements in our community, consider becoming a member today.