PANORAMA PARK, Iowa– Not too far from the Mississippi River a tree-lined road leads to a small neighborhood where some people live in big houses, some live in small houses and all who live there are citizens of a tiny town called Panorama Park.
The tree-lined road that amounts to the city of Panorama Park is the notorious Park Avenue: A main street that runs through the center of the city and acted as the catalyst for residents to declare independence from Bettendorf nearly 70 years ago.
As Carol Mekshes reported in a 1962 article from the Bettendorf News (now published by the Quad City Times), “Panorama Park is probably the only city in the state that owes its existence to a road.”
The article, ‘Eight Years Old and 140 Strong, Panorama Park Now Has Good Road’, gives a glimpse into how this single street evolved into an island of a city surrounded and suspended within the borders of Bettendorf.
The only way in and the only way out of the tiny neighborhood is by taking Park Avenue. Legend has it, residents eventually became frustrated with the city’s lack of upkeep of the road.
“…residents tired of steering their cars down the road which was either water-logged and muddy or snow-drifted and icy,” Mekshes writes.
The article says in 1952 Scott County rejected a petition asking for maintenance of the road.
Feeling ignored by Bettendorf, the neighborhood resolved to take matters into their own hands by organizing into their own formal city, filing with the courthouse on May 15, 1953. Residents would then be able to tax themselves and make improvements to the dirt road, Park Avenue, that leads out to Valley Drive, people’s jobs, schools, and… the rest of Bettendorf.
“We were and still are a working people’s town,” Mrs. Ohm, then-Mayor Marion Ohm’s wife said to Bettendorf News. “We had to use the road to get to our jobs, but it was often impassable. So, we had to do something about it.”
As we all know by glancing at a map, Bettendorf eventually annexed to the east, quickly engulfing Panorama Park. The current mayor of the City of Panorama Park, Ronald D. Rice, said the city council “never expressed interest in expanding beyond our original borders,” but Mekshes reported residents at the time were against Bettendorf’s growth.
Although the small city never sprung upon the opportunity to expand, Panorama Park again made headlines in 2006 as a census error made the town the “fastest growing city in Iowa.” The town and neighborhoods however, haven’t really changed much since the beginning.
People may move and renovations happen, but news and information about city meetings are still posted on a “bulletin board planted in a pasture” reminiscent of the fellowship Mrs. Ohm described to the Bettendorf News nearly 60 years ago.
Originally forged from an independent and self-reliant spirit, Panorama Park succeeded in maintaining its sovereignty enjoying lower taxes than their Bettendorf neighbors to this day.
“We’ll be just as independent as a pig on ice,” Mayor Ohm predicted back in 1962.