Government

Cedar Lake group releases $8.8M restoration plan

Hurdles remain for making illuminated boardwalk, boat access and better fishing a reality

The Cedar River Trail runs around a snow covered Cedar Lake in Cedar Rapids on Monday, January 26, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
The Cedar River Trail runs around a snow covered Cedar Lake in Cedar Rapids on Monday, January 26, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
/

CEDAR RAPIDS — Leaders of a Cedar Lake advocacy group say an $8.8 million master plan released Thursday could transform the 120-acre lake north of downtown into a recreation area where the community can fish, kayak and enjoy a stroll.

The proposal from Friends of Cedar Lake calls for spending $550,000 for a boat house, $1.3 million for landings for canoes and kayaks, $1 million for a curved pedestrian boardwalk that illuminates at night and $1 million for roads, parking and trail improvements.

“It feels like the stars are aligning to do this now,” said Felicia Wyrick, a leader of the Friends group.

Revamping the lake has been on the to-do list for years, but had always been at the bottom, she said.

The Friends group is working with officials from Cedar Rapids and Alliant Energy, which owns the lake, on a Cedar Lake Study Committee with an eye toward rehab.

Significant hurdles remain to making the plan come true — including that it is privately owned, that the millions envisioned in the plan need to be found and that studies are needed to determine whether the lake bottom’s sediment poses environmental concerns.

The lake had been used to cool water for the adjacent Alliant Energy power plant, which was demolished after the 2008 floods. Talk of transforming the lake into a recreational area has existed for decades, but the power plant shutdown created a new opportunity. The city of Cedar Rapids and Alliant have expressed interest in making the lake public.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

People were enthusiastic about the proposal released Thursday. About 75 people attended the unveiling at Shores Event Center.

“I like illuminating the pedestrian bridge with lights and the wildflower area,” said Robin Mehaffey, 65, of Cedar Rapids, looking at artist renderings. “It will be nice to be able take advantage of the water we have here.”

She also liked a proposal for walkways to access the lake, rather than having to “bump across the tracks and curbs” while riding her bike.

Rob Stephan, 27, of Cedar Rapids, said he was glad to see a focus on improving fish habitat and therefore fishing, and making the lake more aesthetically pleasing. The shallow lake and lack of rocks or other underwater structures inhibits fish repopulation, he said.

“Everyone thinks of it as a slew, with three-eyed fish,” he said. “If we start seeing flowers and a nice shoreline, that would make this look a lot better.”

Public art, shelters, fountains, an underpass trail connection from the lake to downtown and environmental protections are factored into the $8.8 million cost.

The costs include:

• $200,000 for south cell island improvements, a 32-acre section with most visibility to Interstate 380;

• $450,00 for park shelters;

• $430,000 for landscaping;

• $500,000 for miscellaneous site amenities;

• $520,000 for underpass beautification;

• $400,000 for earthwork, erosion control and knoll improvements.

Thirty percent of the $8.8 million is estimated for soft costs, and 10 percent is reserved for contingencies.

Costs could be covered by grants and fundraising, said Dale Todd, a leader of Friends of Cedar Lake.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter!

You should start receiving the e-newsletters within a couple days.

Targets include an Iowa Department of Natural Resources lake restoration grant and the Resource Enhancement and Protection grant.

Todd said the group hopes the City Council will consider the plan this spring, so it can begin fundraising immediately and then improvements in 2017.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.