Creating Great Places (CGP) promotes rural vitality through programs in rural arts, environmental protection, outdoor recreation, cultural diversity, and historic preservation. 

Besides our own projects, we provide technical assistance in planning, communications, and development to other area public and non-profit organizations, including Whiterock Conservancy, the City of Coon Rapids, and Guthrie County.

* In 2009, CGP landed $355,000 in federal funding for Whiterock Conservancy to build a 22 mile internal trail system for mountain bikers and equestrians, and we just assisted them in securing an additonal $474,000 Fed Rec Trail grant, leaving this $900,000 project 85% funded.

* In Jan 2010, thanks to a grant written by CGP, Guthrie County was awarded a $365,000 State Transportation Enhancement Grant to begin to secure right of way for the trail from Herndon to Coon Rapids.

* In late 2010 the City of Coon Rapids was awarded a $15,000 Preserve America grant for historic preservation planning in the Coon Rapids area, to be led by CGP staff.

CGP director Rachel Garst began volunteering for local community development efforts in 2005. Over the next four years, she was directly instrumental in raising more than $6.5 million for local projects.  These included a City-owned Assisted Living Facility, a seven-mile Whiterock trail loop, a City shelterhouse, a Whiterock visitor center, a County RV park bathroom, a county canoe launch, a major public art piece for the new Coon Rapids entry way street-scaping, a Spanish language and cultural assistant for the school, and an annual art fair. 

Based on these successes, in 2008 CGP was organized as a formal Iowa non-profit.  Since that time, we have secured major grants for a Guthrie County Trail, the Whiterock internal trail system, and have continued to assist Coon Rapids historic preservation efforts. CGP has also provided communications consulting for the Bosques Pico Bonito rainforest project in La Ceiba Honduras.  CGP was the lead organization in the 2009 statewide "Khrushchev in Iowa" 50th Anniversary Commemoration, and also lent its support to the 2010 statewide Iowa Water and Land Legacy Campaign. 

News & Press Releases
  • Whiterock Conservancy is advancing in planning for an internal sustainable trail system to be used by equestrians and mountain bikers.  CGP provided Whiterock with free-of-charge technical assistance in raising over $800,000 in federal funds towards this project.  Currently, botanists, geologists and archeologists are finishing the initial assessments to ensure that the trail is routed to both protect, and where warranted, highlight, Whiterock's unique assets.
  • Creating Great Places just inaugurated its most recent project, an outdoor performance stage located at lovely Riverside Park managed by Carroll County Conservation on the eastern edge of town.  Mid-October, local musicans tried out the stage at an evening concert and pronounced it highly satisfactory.  Area musicians are invited to come make use of this new perfomance option; reservations can be made through the Coon Rapids City Clerk.  

Current CGP Projects

“Dark Skies – Bright Stars” Poster Contest  

Coon Rapids IA – Creating Great Places announces a poster contest with the theme “Celebrate Dark Skies and Bright Stars.” Outdoor lighting that is directed downwards by using hoods or shades avoids errant light washing out the skies. Dark-sky-friendly lighting preserves stargazing for present and future generations. For more infor, go to  

This contest is held in conjunction with the annual Raccoon River Art Fair held in Coon Rapids, Iowa, which is famed for its exceptionally dark skies and superior star-gazing. Entries for this year are closed but entries for next year can reach CGP up to 4:30 p.m. October 31, 2012.  


Special Appeal for Trail Connection to Des Moines

The future “Herndon to Coon Rapids Trail” will extend the existing RRVT trail system coming out of Des Moines another 17 miles west to reach the major Coon Rapids-Whiterock rural tourism destination area. Creating Great Places has been leading the effort to develop this key segment of the nation-wide America Discovery Trail. 


This project suffered a set-back last spring when the Guthrie County Supervisors cancelled an already-approved federal grant for initial right-of-way acquisition, on the grounds that future trail maintenance costs (estimated in just $17,000 per year) would not be worth the recreational and economic benefits to the county.  The county officials ignored both engineer estimates and an ISU Economic Impact Study. Fortunately, the City of Coon Rapids stepped forward to become the public sponsor of this grant and is moving forward with right of way acquisition, starting with the gift of 7 miles of wildlife corridor by Shippers Consortium. 


To help ease fears of any future public maintenance burdens, CGP has launched a Future Trail Maintenance Fund, which has already received over $40,000 in private pledges. The success of this trail project will depend greatly on bikers showing that they will support it economically. Please keep this project moving forward by pledging YOUR support today.  Click Here for updates and Contributions.


Garst Khrushchev Dialogue Comes to Life

"Peace Through Corn," an original theatre production that brings to life the historic relation between Coon Rapids farmer Roswell Garst and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, recently completed a successful tour of Iowa.  Contact Creating Great Places if your organization would like to sponsor a future performance for your school, community, or event.