Eye 380 was formed as a non-profit group of volunteers in 2008 after several people learned of a program offered by the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) for enhancing urban highway landscapes.
The program asked local citizens to submit plans for improvement of a site and present them to a public entity. If that public entity agrees with the plan, it is forwarded to IDOT. There it is reviewed from several aspects, notably public safety.
If IDOT approves, it pays for site preparation, plants, installation and two years of maintenance. After that, the local citizen group assumes responsibility for the care and maintenance of the site.
Eye 380 decided to focus highway landscape improvements along Interstate 380, the community’s main street. The first site, a swirling planting of bushes and grasses, is located at the Boyson Road intersection in Hiawatha. The Hiawatha City Council approved the plan and submitted it to IDOT.
The second Eye 380 site is located at the Highway 30 interchange. Soon thereafter, two sites were developed south of the Wilson Avenue SW interchange, one site on each side of the highway.
Work originally envisioned at the Cedar Lake site has been completed; however, future plans include the addition of new trees and shrubs that are native to, and suitable for, the site. The work at the development north of the 32nd Street exit was put on hold following the August 2020 derecho. The project is being reviewed and work will recommence in Spring 2022. The City of Cedar Rapids was and continues to be instrumental in the development of, and obtaining approvals for, these sites.
Eye 380 depends on contributions from public and private sources to fulfill its financial obligations related to the care and maintenance of each of the sites.