Education

Iowa City, University of Iowa partner on 'Climate for Change' semester

Focus on Iowa River aims to address sustainability for future generations

Iowa City Parks Superintendent Zac Hall leads a group of University of Iowa graduate students along the Iowa River at Terry Trueblood Recreation Area in Iowa City on Monday, January 22, 2019. The students are participating in a theme semester studying environmental policy and develping a plan  for sustainability improvements along the Iowa River. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Iowa City Parks Superintendent Zac Hall leads a group of University of Iowa graduate students along the Iowa River at Terry Trueblood Recreation Area in Iowa City on Monday, January 22, 2019. The students are participating in a theme semester studying environmental policy and develping a plan for sustainability improvements along the Iowa River. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — With help from the University of Iowa, the city’s 152-acre Terry Trueblood Recreation Area is getting a new plan for improving its use to ensure it will be around for future generations.

A UI graduate student course is helping develop the plan for the city park and areas around it on the Iowa River. The work is in conjunction with a larger partnership between the UI and Iowa City put on a theme semester called “Climate for Change,” which seeks to develop ideas from students, staff, merchants and residents for sustainability — that is, meeting today’s needs without compromising the ability to do the same in the future.

Last week, the Iowa City Council passed a resolution enabling the city to join the university’s efforts. Over the next few months, in addition to the park adaptation plan, the city will encourage residents and businesses to participate in environmental sustainability efforts while the UI holds programs and events on the topic.

“What we’d love is to have community members come and really be a part of that opportunity to both hear national leaders but, in addition to that, join in the conversation about sustainability,” said Linda Snetselaar, UI associate provost of outreach and engagement.

Events throughout the semester include a “teach in” where professors can include sustainability as a lecture topic, as well as lectures and a workshop conducted by Marcy Rockman, the National Park Service’s climate change adaptation coordinator for cultural resources.

Iowa City Mayor Jim Throgmorton said he has had multiple conversations with UI President Bruce Harreld about improving the Iowa River, which runs through the campus and city.

Throgmorton said that while the city already has some good features along the river, such as Riverfront Crossings and parks, there’s still more that could be done.

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“I think of them as jewels on a necklace,” Throgmorton said. “The crown jewel, if you will, is Hancher (Auditorium). So there are all these really wonderful assets along the river, but nothing tying them together except the river itself.”

Scott Spak, a professor for the graduate class, said the class’s plan will be about adapting the Terry Trueblood Recreational Area, 579 McCollister Blvd., with evolving human and natural uses.

He said studying the park is a “hands on’ way for his urban and regional planning master’s degree students to get experience as well as develop an adaptation template for other areas along to the river.

Overall. the Iowa River corridor efforts “will acknowledge and celebrate the various historical factors that have shaped current human use along the river, respond creatively to challenges and opportunities in specific locations along the river, adapt to changes in the region’s climate by making the areas adjacent to the river more resilient to future flooding, and use the river as a catalyst for future community and economic development that exemplify and fulfill the sustainability values and principles we jointly hold in high regard,” the city and the university said in a joint statement.

“When we think of rivers, we are often thinking about many different areas throughout the state,” Snetselaar said. “That particular idea in Dr. Spak’s course will kind of become a template that can be used throughout the state, but I also see it maybe as something that might be a focus nationally as well.”

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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