Cedar Lake redevelopment gets another boost

Cedar Rapids council embarks on public input process

Janice Ehrmann of Amana gives a “thumbs up” as the Friends of Cedar Lake hosted a paddle event on Cedar Lake in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, July 1, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Janice Ehrmann of Amana gives a “thumbs up” as the Friends of Cedar Lake hosted a paddle event on Cedar Lake in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, July 1, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Advocacy group Friends of Cedar Lake has gotten another boost in its two-year push to beautify and redevelop the 115-acre industrial lake next to Interstate 380 just north of downtown.

The Cedar Rapids City Council this month unanimously agreed to have the Community Development Department conduct a formal public outreach effort to allow the city to obtain more information about public interest in the lake.

The effort will build on the work of the Friends group, which has made dozens of community presentations and created a master plan for its vision of the lake.

The Friends’ work has led to the creation of the Cedar Lake Steering Committee, which is made up of representatives from the group, the city, Linn County and the owner of the lake, Alliant Energy.

City Council member Ralph Russell, who is a city representative on the committee, last week called the lake “a diamond in the rough.”

Russell said Alliant, which no longer operates a power plant next to the lake and so doesn’t need its water for the plant, has been “open and cooperative” in discussing the lake’s future.

The Friends would like to see Alliant transfer lake ownership to the city so the lake is positioned to obtain government grants. Russell said Alliant is open to that.

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In recent months, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources has removed Cedar Lake from the state’s impaired water list after studies of fish there no longer show levels of toxins.

Among the key hurdles for investment in the lake is what unknown toxins might be in the lake’s sediment. The Friends have said they would like the lake dredged so it can better support recreation and a fishery.

As part of the city’s public outreach plan, it will meet with focus groups in October and hold a public open house in November and another in December or January.

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