116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CORALVILLE — Local governments in Johnson County want to make the Iowa River a signature attraction for residents and visitors.
With the help of Think Iowa City, the cities of Coralville and Iowa City, along with Johnson County, are preparing a nearly $6 million application to the state’s Destination Iowa program that will be submitted in the coming weeks.
The joint application seeks funding for various projects improving water and trail access in the county. This includes a new park in Coralville with various amenities, a skatepark renovation in Iowa City, new boat ramps, and completing the Clear Creek Trail connection out to Kent Park.
“We're dubbing ourselves the pedal paddle destination of the Midwest because of all the trail accesses that you can pedal on and all the water access you can paddle on,” said Nick Pfeiffer, Think Iowa City’s vice president of public affairs.
The projects within the grant application are “shovel ready” and could get started within the next 12 months, Pfeiffer said. They are part of a larger, long-term vision to revitalize the Iowa River for recreation.
The total application amount, which currently sits at $5.8 million, could change slightly before it’s submitted, Pfeiffer said. With how things stand currently, Coralville would receive about 40 percent, Iowa City 25 percent and Johnson County 35 percent, he added.
It’s a collaborative effort with a “united vision,” Pfeiffer said. If the state awards the full amount requested, Pfeiffer said that would take care of the funding for the projects.
The projects within the application are part of a larger vision to make the Iowa River a signature attraction. That vision is also among the priorities identified in the plan published by Project Better Together 2030 earlier this year.
While the river has been maintained over the decades, it hasn’t been utilized to its full potential, Pfeiffer said.
“Even though it cuts through the heart of our communities in our county, we largely ignore it and don't utilize the beauty of it and all that it can be,” Pfeiffer said.
The long-term plan is to develop features to make the river easier to use from the Coralville Reservior dam all the way down south to Hills and Riverside. That includes improving the trail system, adding more boat ramps so people can easily get on the water and planning other attractions along the river, Pfeiffer said.
It will give residents multiple outlets for recreation and entertainment, as well as attract more visitors to the area, he said.
‘Cohesive riverfront’ in Coralville
The city of Coralville is looking to develop bicycle and small water craft amenities where Clear Creek meets the Iowa River just east of First Avenue, said Sherri Proud, the city’s parks and recreation director. The site is south of the Iowa River Power restaurant and the former location of Hawkeye Ready-Mix.
The proposed Clear Creek Point Park could also have pickleball courts, exercise stations, shelter for activities, a walking loop, pump track and more. A “fix it” station for bikes and “kayak vending station” for rentals — similar to a bike share program — are also part of the proposed plan, Proud said.
The location is a good place for an accessible kayak launch because the water is calmer, Proud said. In the winter, the walking loop could be a place for ice skating.
The ideas and park name are in draft form and will be discussed more once funding is secured, Proud said. The project would be completed in phases.
“We are talking about drawing from the history of the ice industry on the Iowa River, as well as the mill industry,” Proud said. “There will be some tying that in with the Iowa River Landing and making sure you have a cohesive riverfront here in Coralville with all of those ideas.”
Iowa City’s plans
In Iowa City, funds would be used to renovate the skatepark and add a bike pump track at Terrell Mill Park, build an off road bike track on land north of City Park, and improve boat drops in the area.
The skatepark would be made bigger and include a few extra amenities, Pfeiffer said. The pump track would be for those using BMX type bikes.
There is the possibility of a boat drop at Waterworks Prairie Park, which is on North Dubuque Street just north of Interstate 80.
“It would make a really nice access … that you could put a boat in or kayak or canoe and paddle down the Iowa River and then get off at Clear Creek Point Park,” Pfeiffer said.
Also on the radar is to improve the current boat drop at Sturgis Ferry Park on South Riverside Drive, Pfeiffer said.
“They're going to improve that area, definitely dress it up and improve the access to it and the amenities that are there,” Pfeiffer said.
Extending Clear Creek Trail
Johnson County’s piece of the application involves connecting Clear Creek Trail to F.W. Kent Park, Pfeiffer said. The $5 million trail extension has secured $3.5 million in funding and is looking to secure the remaining $1.5 million, The Gazette reported earlier this year.
Clear Creek Trail currently runs from what will be Clear Creek Point Park out to the Interstate 80/380 interchange. Once construction on the interchange is completed, the trail will go underneath the bridges and connect to the trail in Tiffin.
The requested funds would help extend the trail 2.5 miles from Tiffin out to Kent Park.
“We hope to have that trail connected here, so you'll be able to ride your bike from Iowa City or Coralville, all the way out through Tiffin and all the way to Kent Park,” County Conservation Director Larry Gullett said in May.
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