Marion, Linn County projects go before Vision Iowa boards

Funds would pay for projects at Lowe Park, Wickiup Hill

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Supporters of Marion's Lowe Park improvements will make their pitch Wednesday for state funds.

The city is asking $312,000 from Vision Iowa's Community Attraction and Tourism (CAT) Committee for construction of an amphitheater at the park, said Mike Carolan, the city's interim parks and recreation director.

Marion has already landed $235,000 from the Iowa Great Places program for the $1.7 million project. Other funding includes $75,000 over four years from the county and$750,000 from Marion's local-option sales tax revenue, and $150,000 from the Hall-Perrine Foundation.

Project supporters are seeking private donations to match the Hall-Perrine grant.

Carolan said he expects a decision on the CAT grant around February.

Linn County will ask for an extension of the state's deadline for an $850,000 grant for improvements at the county's Wickiup Hill Outdoor Learning Center near Toddville.

Linn County Conservation Dan Biechler said he'll appear before the Vision Iowa board Wednesday in Des Moines to update them on the $2.1 million improvement project and ask for a three-month extension on the grant's Feb. 28 deadline.

Biechler said the project is substantially complete except for the extension of fiber-optic cable to the center and a few minor building details.

"We’re very close to being completed, but there’s a few things that are lingering," Biechler said. "Technically I think we could it without the extension, but we're just making sure."

The fiber optic cable will allow a high-speed Internet connection so educators at the center can participate in classroom lessons with county schools. The projects also include a storm shelter, expanded exhibits, and office space so the conservation department can move from its present building on County Home Road in Marion.

County supervisors approved $1.2 million in bonding for the project. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Iowa Department of Homeland Security have granted $615,000 for the storm shelter.

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