116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Cedar Rapids has about 230 acres identified as greenway area as a result of 2008 flood which could be used for trail development, parks, ball fields, open air pavilions, fountains, or wetlands.
Plans are just getting underway this summer to start working on the Time Check greenway area, which is along the Cedar River from Ellis Boulevard to the 5-in-1 dam. The flood protection greenway was created from buyouts and demolition of flood damaged properties.
Sven Leff, Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation director, said there isn't a cost estimate on the greenway area and other proposed riverfront projects because no final decisions have been made at this point. It was fortunate the greenway area, as well as the other parks, didn't have any damage from two weeks ago when minor flooding threatened some areas.
The first major project, a 5,000 seat amphitheater located on the western bank of the river downtown, will be completed in August but may not be used for concerts and other entertainment until next year, he said.
“We have to do this in phases but to be where we are in five years is commendable,” Leff said. “It's really remarkable. It's hard to be patient but there has to be planning because some of the projects require changing the infrastructure.”
Leff said costs are always a driving factor and because FEMA is slow to reimburse, and in some cases may not cover the majority of expenses, there needs to solid planning. Some projects will require time because streets and power lines may have to be removed. An example is there has been some interest from the neighborhoods about creating football fields but they would most likely be in areas without obstructions.
The other riverfront projects being considered include:
-A downtown promenade on two levels from I-380 to 8th Avenue SE
-A pool of water with spray jests on the May's Island lawn between the Veterans Memorial Building and the Linn County Courthouse. It would convert to an outdoor ice skating rink in the winter.
-A section of urban beach and wetland area along the river in the New Bohemia area.
Leff said any project in a public green space can be anything that won't obstruct water, and basically anything that cannot be damaged if it is flooded like wetland trails, ball fields, a parking lot and some types of fencing. For example, if lights or bleachers are installed for ball fields they would have to be portable, not permanent.
The parks crews will start land clearing in July for possible trail expansions, ball fields and prairie grass areas.
Leff said while the green space development is important, it has been a lower priority in the flood recovery process in comparison to repairing homes, government offices, and building a fire station. Development is also dependent on the estimated $104 million flood protection plan.
Joe O'Hern, the city's executive administrator for development, said the buyouts are completed but the city may need to acquire some additional property for the flood protection plan, which includes levees and flood walls to protect the east side of the city but those plans haven't been finalized.
According to the city's figures, 1,150 homes and 156 commercial properties were damaged in the flood. There were 73 voluntary buyouts – 59 residential and 14 commercial.
Kevin Dean, public information officer for City of Grand Forks, North Dakota, said while five years may seem a long time for a city to recover from a flood, it isn't. Grand Forks, which sits along on the Red River, had a devastating flood in 1997 and its flood protection plan wasn't completed until 2007. The large greenway area of 2,200 acres also wasn't developed until the levees and flood walls were being constructed.
The Grand Forks greenway includes trails, parks, recreation areas, playgrounds and a dog park. After 2007, the city has continued to work on enhancements and improvements to the trails and parks.
“You have to be patient,” Dean said. “Five years isn't a long time in terms of a disaster. It's hard when you see it every day…and get a feeling of annoyance. Come on already, can't we get this behind us?”
Dean said Cedar Rapids will eventually see how the development of a riverfront or greenway area will only help its economy. The Grand Forks greenway was “unexpected benefit” to the city. The area has provided a place for concerts like “Blues on the Red,” an annual Artfest, which attracts thousands of people, and a farmer's market. Proof of the economic benefits can be seen in the sales tax collections which have topped $2 million in the last three years, he said.
“Now, it may not be the greenway events exclusively, but it has contributed,” Dean said.