Cedar Lake master plan to be unveiled on Thursday

Cedar Lake could transform from eyesore to city asset.

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The final master plan for the reclamation of Cedar Lake from a blighted industrial pool into a recreational asset for the community is expected to be released at a public meeting Thursday.

A footbridge bridge over the water, a viewing platform, a trail under Interstate 380, and piers for fishing are key features in the proposed redesign of the 115-acre lake. New information will include cost estimates and a vision for the south side of the lake, the area most visible from I-380.

“While we had a vision, it was important to have a reality check about what is pie in the sky and what is doable,” said Dale Todd, a leader of the Friends of Cedar Lake, which has been a main advocate for revitalizing the lake. “I believe the master plan hits the nail on the head: a realistic vision with accurate numbers.”

The Friends of Cedar Lake is unveiling its vision and associated costs from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday at the Shores Event Center, 700 16th St NE.

The plan, which cost $23,000, comes after more than 60 community groups provided feedback on early drafts and news last spring Cedar Lake had been removed from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ impaired-waters list after almost 30 years. A caution remains to limit consumption of fish caught there because of toxins.

“Elements of the plan will appeal to all users,” Todd said. “There’s a nice balance between new amenities, protecting the existing ecosystem and enhancing the existing ecosystem.”

A few hurdles remain to transforming the lake, however.

Alliant Energy owns the lake, which sat adjacent to its power plant. The power plant was destroyed in the 2008 flood. The energy company has indicated an openness to a real estate transfer that would turn the lake over to the city. During a planning meeting of the Cedar Lake Study Commission last month, officials from the city and Alliant discussed a possible letter of intent for a real estate transfer, which could help with securing grants.

Justin Foss, a spokesman for Alliant, declined to comment on the plans.

Also, Cedar Rapids should learn in April whether it was successful in a bid for a $200,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency brownfield grant. That would determine whether toxins exist in sediment of the lake. The city is waiting on the sediment study to gauge what liability they’d accept in owning the lake.

The hardest thing to overcome could be the lake’s history as a toxic site, Todd said. He did note precedent for successfully turning former industrial sites into recreation destinations: the Ice Harbor in Dubuque and the Iowa River Landing District in Coralville.

“The biggest challenge is perceptions,” he said.

The Friends of Cedar Lake plans to ask the City Council to consider adopting its plans this spring so the group can begin fundraising and start incorporating improvements in 2017, Todd said.

“We’ve studied and talked about this for 100 years,” he said. “It is time for action.”

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