It's completed and now open! Officials on Tuesday evening, March 27, cut a ceremonial ribbon and turned on the solar-powered LED lighting at the "Waukee Railroad Pergola -- in the shadow of the rails."

It's the $1.1-million, 340-foot-long, 15-foot-high colorful gateway to the Raccoon River Valley Trail on the west side of Waukee. It was designed by nationally-known sculptor and "transportation artist" David Dahlquist, of Des Moines and Lake Panorama, and his colleagues at RDG Planning & Design's Dahlquist Art Studio in the capital city.

Components of this art installation will soon be going up at six other trailheads on the 89-mile trail system in west central Iowa. The development of the art project persuaded state officials to recognize the whole trail as an "Iowa Great Place," making some state funding available, and then individuals, businesses, corporations and foundations stepped up with donations.

You can read complete coverage of the development of the art installation right here.

Several hundred people turned out on a chilly evening Tuesday for the ceremony, but as it went on, the sun peeked through the clouds that had lingered for days.

"This blazes a new trail of cooperation on the Raccoon River Valley Trail and the other communities," Waukee Mayor Bill Peard told the crowd. "This artwork, which is going to be a truly interactive experience for everybody, is going to be a catalyst for a new identity for this whole region."

Jim Miller, of rural Waukee, an MVP in the planning, development and fundraising of the project, said two key words "kept coming up, again and again, when a small group of us were talking about what we wanted to do with art here on the trail. Those two words were 'iconic' and 'regional'."

Dahlquist, the artist, called the completion of the Pergola "a Herculean effort" and "one of the most collaborative projects we've been able to be a part of." He added that "an art project like this is a leap of faith, and thank you for keeping the faith."

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