The interests of environmentalists and businesses are often portrayed as inimical to each other, but in the Des Moines Metro area they coincide.
Which is why Hubbel Realty Company recently donated $1 million to the DMS Water Trails and Greenways Project, which aims to restore, rejuvenate and protect the 150 miles of rivers and creeks that distinguish the area.
Rick Tollakson, president and CEO of Hubbell, told the West Des Moines Guide in a telephone interview that his original involvement in the project came when he was asked to be part of an initial study group; it wanted somebody on the team who was not already an environmental advocate. As part of that team, he visited other states to see how they were utilizing their rivers for the benefit of the whole community.
He has been part of the effort ever since.
“It is probably the most important thing we can do,” he said, noting that although Metro Des Moines is growing by leaps and bounds, its businesses, just like those in the rest of the country, are competing mightily for the best employees. Unlike previous generations, who might have decided what company to work for and then gone wherever they were sent, today, he said, “people decide where they want to live. They know they’ll get a job; there is a high demand.”
Tollakson said he was surprised to see the variety of activities cities offered on their rivers: white-water rafting in Chattanooga and even surfing in Boise and Columbus in addition to favorites such as fishing, boating and, “respite.”
“They call it ‘respite’; I call it goofing around near the water. People just bringing their kids to look for frogs and do the things kids do on the water,” Tollakson said.
Part of the funding, he said, will be used to create more access-egress points to the river as, for example, people in a canoe or kayak do not want to spend the whole day but stop and debark after an hour or so.
“Iowa is blessed with a lot of rivers,” he added. “It is our major resource that we can exploit (for both community engagement and economic development). It’s a win/win for our local economy.”