CCDA awards $500,000 for arboretum enhancements

·3 min read

Sep. 22—CLINTON — The Clinton County Development Association has made a $500,000 pledge toward a project that will bring big changes to Clinton Community College's Bickelhaupt Arboretum.

The CCDA, which awards gaming grants to projects throughout Clinton County, on Wednesday unanimously approved granting the funds to the college's Paul B. Sharar Foundation, which requested the funds in July. The Foundation's $4.5 million plan would renovate the arb's mid-century modern home into a special events center, upgrade accessibility, add special features for visitors and increase parking.

The CCDA, under a recommendation from CCDA Board Member Margaret Wolf, did set criteria that the Foundation must raise 80% of the project's cost to receive half of the grant and will receive the remainder when the full amount is raised.

College officials said the renovation is an important mechanism in keeping the arb financially sustainable beyond the endowment it received from the Bickelhaupt family in 2014 when the family transferred ownership of the arboretum to the college.

CCC President Brian Kelly told the CCDA in July that the Sharar Foundation approached college leadership about the need for the project. "They said, 'We have this asset and have this endowment and have been funding operational costs off the endowment. We've been doing well with that, but it can't last forever,'" he explained.

Creating an events center and making the arb a tourism destination would boost revenues and bring in more visitors, Kelly said.

He and Paul B. Sharar Foundation Executive Director Ann Eisenman told the CCDA that the Foundation has $2.5 million on hand to pay for half of the work. To reach the full $4.5 million, the Foundation's plans are to seek out private donations and grants. It already has applied for a $1 million Destination Iowa Grant and has received letters of support from city and county officials. A capital campaign this fall will assist in raising funds, as well.

The college was founded in 1946. In 1970, the Bickelhaupt family, as a result of Dutch elm disease that spread in trees throughout the city, looked around the community and decided to start an arboretum on their 14 acres.

After the deaths of Bob and Frances Bickelhaupt, the family transferred ownership of the arb to the college. It includes their family home, the acreage and an endowment to take care of the arboretum.

The arb is used for weddings, prom season, Master Gardener meetings, and for an elementary school program known as "No Child Left Inside", and community events at the arb, such ice cream socials and the annual Arts at the Arb.

To continue those offerings, Kelly told the CCDA in July that the arboretum needs to have a revenue stream beyond the endowment, which was at $1.8 million when set up by the family in 2014 and holds around $1.2 million today. The arb's current operating budget is between $180,000 and $200,000 a year, Eisenman said. The estimated costs would be $250,000 a year after the renovation is complete.