Shepherd’s Garden, a Sioux City project that had recently been awarded funding from the Vision Iowa board, has notified the board it is declining that award. The project was able to close its funding gap as a result of recently-received private donations.
Shepherd’s Garden had applied to the Vision Iowa board for assistance in the creation of a public greenspace and spiritual garden at the former YWCA site in downtown Sioux City. The proposal included the placement of Christian symbols within the park, which is why, in its award to the project, the Vision Iowa board stipulated that public funds could not be used for the religious elements of the project.
In deciding to fund only the project’s secular elements, the board was attempting to balance the merits of the project with the need to respect the separation of church and state. The board was attempting to further legitimate public purposes such as redeveloping underutilized urban property without also endorsing a sectarian message.
Tina Hoffman, spokesperson for the IEDA, the agency responsible for staffing the Vision Iowa board says that the Vision Iowa board is pleased that the Shepherd’s Garden project in Sioux City has had additional success in raising funds through private sources. She says that not only will the Sioux City project move forward, but now funding is available to assist other deserving projects that will advance the board’s mission to provide additional recreational, cultural, entertainment and educational attractions.