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Manning, IA

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2018

Project Category: Public space activation

Description: Organizers with Manning Main Street hoped to encourage visitors to Manning's vibrant downtown to congregate and socialize. To create an inviting environment, they installed twelve artistic lights along Main Street. Local artisans created the lights, which are comprised of panels featuring cutouts depicting local landmarks, including the town's water tower, trestle bridge and historic Lutheran church. The additional illumination also enhances safety in the area. In the years since, Main Street Manning has focused on streetscaping and has added more art installations downtown.

La Crosse, WI

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2018

Project Category: Public space activation

Description: La Crosse's food forest produces fruit and vegetables for the community, helps absorb stormwater runoff and serves as a communal gathering place. The forest, however, did not have seating along its many paths. To beautify the forest and give visitors a place to rest, the La Crosse Area Family YMCA created artistic benches. Younger people worked with older adult mentors to design, assemble and decorate each bench. Many pay homage to the forest, featuring images of plants and vegetables. Project organizers say the public art effort fostered intergenerational cohesion, and residents consider the new benches to be source of community pride.

Beaver Dam, WI

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2019

Project Category: Public space activation

Description: The City of Beaver Dam wanted to showcase its downtown Mural Walking Tour. To do this, they added benches along the route, allowing visitors to rest and interact with each other. The walking tour showcases 17 historical murals depicting 19th century business operations and notable Beaver Dam residents, including World War II glider pilot Harold Rief and science fiction author Raymond Z. Gallon. The City installed one six-foot-long, accessible bench near each mural on the walk. Additionally, they distributed mural tour maps to businesses and offices downtown. Project organizers report the seating has contributed to more pedestrian activity in the area. They also say the new benches have inspired private donations to purchase seating for other parts of downtown.

Nearby AARP Community Challenge Projects

Hopkinton, NH

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2023

Project Category: Walkability

Description: This project will conduct three walk audits to identify potential locations for sidewalk and crosswalk improvements, while bringing awareness to the social and health benefits of walkability.

Goffstown, NH

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2019

Project Category: Improved wayfinding

Description: The five-and-a-half mile Goffstown Rail Trail connects the town's three commercial areas. To help trail users navigate, Friends of the Goffstown Rail Trail erected new signs with information about nearby businesses and facilities, as well as tidbits of Goffstown history. Since installation, business owners along the trail have reported more visitors in their shops. And as Goffstown plans for a future trail expansion, the signs have helped build community buy-in and attract donations to fund that project.

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