New Northbound Rest Area To Celebrate County's Native American History

Overview of the rest area overhaul in Mills County.

Panels depicting the culture and symbology of the native people and animals that occupied the region 600 years ago. Outdoor learning areas featuring native artwork and the local flora and fauna. A design referencing the earthen-lodge homes that once dotted the Missouri River valley.

Oh, and upgraded rest room facilities and additional parking.

These are just a few of the upgrades taking place at the Interstate 29 northbound rest area in Mills County. The Iowa Department of Transportation began the $4 million project in September to replace the original rest stop which opened in 1974.

Wes Mayberry, assistant district engineer for the Iowa Department of Transportation overseeing the project, said the rest area facelift will include a brand new building with design features and displays that capture southwest Iowa - specifically Mills County.

“We’ll have themes representing the Missouri River valley, the Loess Hills and the cultural, native American history of the area,” Mayberry said. The Mills County project is one of many underway or planned around the state in the coming years.
“The old buildings are pretty plain and square with just a restroom in it,” Mayberry said. “This is a trend across the state of Iowa, we’re doing at least one rest area building replacement per year and each gets a theme that matches that area’s history.”

An Adair County a rest stop along Interstate 80 is nearing completion. That location captures some of the area’s wagon trail history as well as referencing the wind farms in the area.

“We’ve put some history in there and give people something to read and look at when they stop and relax,” he said. “We want them to be able to study the history of that area.”

The Mills County site will pay homage to the Native American culture that called the area home 1200 to 1350 AD. Often referred to as the Glenwood people of the Central Plains tradition, they settled in the area in their earthen-walled lodge homes and farmed far before the arrival of settlers.

The facility’s outdoor learning areas will have panels depicting Glenwood peoples, their language and culture as well as local flora and fauna. Windows on the front vestibule of the building will highlight bird species found in the county’s migratory path and a layout of a typical earthen lodge will be displayed on the interior floor. The earthen lodge concept will also be carried into the shelter design.

State Rep. Dave Sieck has long been a supporter of the project and making Mills County’s cultural past connect to its present and future.
“Mills County has had more Native American artifacts that any other area of the state so I think that plays in really good to what we have over here,” Sieck said.

Sieck said there’s been talk of a similar overhaul to the southbound Interstate 29 rest area. That theme, he hopes, would reference the area’s many historic trails, from Lewis and Clark, to the Underground Railroad and Mormon Trails.

He envisions that rest stop connecting up with the bike trails in Council Bluffs and Nebraska.

“I’d like them to be able to get off at the rest area and crawl on their bike and take it for a spin,” he said. “That would include some type of crossing over the interstate down there and hook it to the (Highway) 34 bridge. That way we could complete the trail system from Iowa into Nebraska and go back up to the metro area.”

Mayberry confirmed a similar overhaul is planned for the southbound rest area but that project is not currently in the DOT’s five-year plan. He estimates that project could start as 2030 and would likely feature a theme that represents southwest Iowa and Mills County but Mayberry was uncertain of those details.

“A lot depends on funding as we compete with other spots around the state,” Mayberry said.

The Opinion-Tribune

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