MANCHESTER — Removal of an obsolete dam and construction of an elaborate white-water course have earned Manchester the title of Iowa Rivers Revival’s 2015 “River Town of the Year.”
“Manchester is making the Maquoketa River the heart and soul of the community again, a focus for recreation, economic development and environmental stewardship,” said Jerry Peckumn, board chairman of the river advocacy group, at a reception Wednesday at the Franklin Street Brewing Company overlooking the new white-water park.
The centerpiece of Manchester’s extensive river revitalization efforts — the $1.8 million, 800-foot-long white-water course with six 18-inch drops and rocky pools — is near completion and expected to open this spring.
“It’s going to be wonderful. It will help build our economy and increase the vitality and energy of our community,” said Dean Sherman, chairman of the local Good to Great Committee that was instrumental in launching the project.
City Manager Tim Vick credited the City Council with giving the project a “bold push” with a pledge of $600,000.
“This will be a red letter year for the river,” said Doug Hawker, a member of the River Recreation Committee and self described “Maquoketa River rat.”
Hawker said the recently removed 9-foot dam in Manchester and a similar dam a few miles upstream at Quaker Mill, which will be removed this year or next, had clogged the river with silt, degrading the environment for fish and other aquatic species, as well as the river’s appeal to recreationists.
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In bestowing the award, Iowa Rivers Revival cited not only the white-water park but also plans to revitalize the riverfront with trails and observation points, to remove the upstream Quaker Mill dam and to designate the Maquoketa in Delaware County as an Iowa Water Trail.
The organization also cited Manchester’s recent $8.6 million upgrade of its wastewater system as a step toward improved water quality.
Two new businesses — The Franklin Street Brewery and the Watershed, a kayak and canoe livery — already have been established as a direct result of river revival efforts, according to city officials.
In addition to the $600,000 provided by the city, the project was funded by $50,000 from Delaware County, $600,000 in state grants and $630,000 in private donations.
Previous “River Towns of the Year” are Webster City, Elkader, Coon Rapids, Cedar Falls, Charles City, Central City, Dubuque and Decorah.