CEDAR FALLS — Collective problems deserve collective solutions.
Randy Wheeler and other residents along Big Woods Road and W. Mount Vernon Road put together $65,000 to have their roads paved.
Wheeler got the idea started and his neighbors joined in shortly afterward.
There are about 35 property owners in the area, and 24 of those property owners ended up contributing about $2,500 per household to the project.
Only about a handful of the residents didn’t come in on the deal, Wheeler said.
The county said it was unlikely they would have done it themselves.
The paving project included three-quarters of a mile of Big Woods Road and a mile of Mount Vernon Road.
“We started a year ago,” Wheeler said. “A couple years ago they shut off our road; that made a lot of neighbors upset.”
Mount Vernon Road used to meet directly with Highway 218 but the Department of Transportation cut off access.
Wheeler and his neighbors thought the county should pave the road for them because of the lack of access.
“There’s a lot of old-school people on this road that said ‘we’re going to step up and do it ourselves,’” Wheeler said. “Some of them said, ‘I’m paying enough in property taxes they ought to do,’ and I said, ‘they aren’t going to do it for us, so we can sit around and complain for the next 10 years or we can step up and do it.’”
For a year Wheeler and others have knocked on doors and talked to their neighbors to get the road paved.
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“That’s what led to everybody getting together and deciding we want to chip seal the road and cover up some gravel,” Wheeler said.
Marc Scheer is one of Wheeler’s neighbors who helped the project come together.
“We were just tired of dust and mud when it rained,” Scheer said. “It’s hard to keep the windows open in the spring and the fall with the dusty roads.”
When access to Highway 218 was was shut off traffic increased on Big Woods and Mount Vernon roads, kicking up more dust clouds. The dust was so bad it turned roadside bushes brown, residents say.
“The dust was terrible,” Wheeler said. “After it rained we just had the vehicles covered in lime mud.”
Before 218 access was shut down, Wheeler was 30 seconds to the highway. Now it’s a five-minute drive, he said.
Still, the pavement has been an improvement to the neighborhood, Wheeler said.
“I, personally, like the dust control and not having to eat the dust all the time,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler said he’s had great encounters with Black Hawk County Engineer Cathy Nicholas as he’s worked on the project.
“She’s been very supportive on the deal,” Wheeler said. “She came to one of our meetings on a Saturday night and took her time to come to one of the meetings and was there for two and half hours.”
She told Wheeler at one of the meetings that this has never been done before, he said.
“That’s was motivating for me,” Wheeler said. “It’s been a good old-fashioned community experience.”