After six months of blogging, it is time for me to say goodbye to The Grid. This comes as I also say goodbye to Iowa, the state I called home for three and a half years. While studying urban planning at Iowa State University, I rarely ventured far from town, not thinking there was anything worth seeing beyond the cornfields surrounding Ames. Through blogging for The Grid, however, I discovered how wrong I was.
As I explored the mid-Iowa region, I felt more and more like a part of the community, and could appreciate the traits that make the area unique. Upon my infiltrating Des Moines’ trendy East Village neighborhood, I stumbled upon the perfect Christmas presents for family members, as well as a new favorite restaurant. As I walked along the main streets of several small farming communities, I reveled in their quirks that were sources of community pride. I remember a haphazard Christmas tree right in the middle of the road in Slater, or the cornstalks proudly propped up in someone’s yard in Huxley. Despite the ghost-town vibe in these small towns, the few people who remain clearly care about their community.
While blogging, I also came to understand the unique set of challenges that face Des Moines, a rapidly growing Midwestern city that is just coming into its own. Des Moines has been trying to reign in its suburbs as they grow exponentially, through a massive regional planning effort. I could see, however, where the plan’s implementation came up short, as the suburbs rejected affordable housing and failed to make sustainable forms of transportation a top priority. While the area may struggle with sustainability, Des Moines has been successful in efforts to improve its image. There’s more for young adults to do downtown than ever before, and I was able to discover Des Moines just as it was becoming fun. By researching and writing about these failures and successes, I’ve learned how a city handles problems that are new, and not yet chronic. In this way, Des Moines is a very hopeful city.
Now I am moving on to the next stage in my life, in a different state. My blogging experience has inspired me to get out and explore my city, attractive and struggling neighborhoods alike. Wherever I end up in the future, the writing I have done for The Grid will influence the way I see my urban surroundings.
Credits: Images by Molly Carpenter. Data linked to sources.