MUSCATINE, Iowa—Driving down Iowa Highway 22, you may have noticed the iconic Great River Road signs posted along the way. While many people recognize them, do you really know what they stand for? Growing up, National Pearl Button Museum @ History and Industry Center Director Terry Eagle saw them all the time, though he knew little about them. Now, as the Commissioner of the Mississippi River Parkway Commission in Muscatine County, Eagle looks forward to getting to know the historic and scenic route better and helping people near and far learn more about it too.
Eagle never intended to become Muscatine County’s Commissioner, but the position found him. Scott County’s Commissioner approached him about applying after learning about his work on the National Pearl Button Museum. Seeing the opportunity to do more work to preserve Muscatine County’s natural and historic treasures, Eagle decided to take her up on it. “It’s in the wheelhouse of what we want to do,” he elaborated.
As Muscatine County’s Commissioner, Eagle will work with local organizations and commissioners up and down the river to help encourage people to travel the Great River Road to see its many natural areas and historic sites all the way from Lake Itasca, Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana. In particular, Eagle will work to maintain Muscatine County’s two current interpretive centers, Pine Creek Grist Mill and the National Pearl Button Museum, as well as creating more. “I’m going to approach it in a fun way so that when people travel down the Great River Road, they can see things locals take for granted,” he said.
Eagle especially looks to grow ecotourism in the area, using the history of the pearl button industry in Muscatine as a catalyst. Eagle would like to highlight places such as the Fairport Fish Hatchery, which opened to try to propagate more mussels for the pearl button industry and now conservationists, such as Mussels of Muscatine, would like to convert back to its original purpose to reintroduce mussels to the river today.
Eagle started working with other commissioners to see how to enhance Muscatine’s stretch of the Great River Road when the Iowa Mississippi River Parkway Commission held their quarterly meeting in Muscatine on Jan. 13 at the National Pearl Button Museum @ History and Industry Center. Eagle valued getting to see the various projects the other commissioners have in the works.
In particular, he enjoyed getting to learn about Belleview’s plans to restore the Young House. The home originally belonged to Charles Young, the founder of Stanley Consultants (called Central States Engineering before he sold it to C. Maxwell Stanley) and an early organizer of the Great River Road. “It was so much fun yesterday to host them and see what they’re working on,” he shared.
As Muscatine County’s newest commissioner, Eagle looks forward to tapping into the potential of Muscatine’s stretch. As he does, locals and visitors will get a richer sense of everything Muscatine County has to offer.