Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs made his mark on Mount Vernon. Many in town made their mark on him, too. Wirfs and his mother, Sarah, took The Gazette on a tour of his hometown, revisiting scenes around what essentially is the one square mile where he grew up. This story is a little about what can hold you back. This is mostly about what moves you forward.

Guest Columnist

Help make Cedar Rapids a recreation destination

The Gazette’s June 29 editorial, “Cedar Rapids Making Great Progress on Cedar Lake,” stated that rarely in Cedar Rapids has a single dollar been better spent than with the acquisition of Cedar Lake from Alliant Energy by the City of Cedar Rapids.

I could not agree more, and applaud The Gazette for their editorial. And I thank The City of Cedar Rapids, Mayor Brad Hart, the City Council and City Manager Jeff Pomeranz for their incredible support. I also want to acknowledge Alliant Energy for graciously selling the lake and land for $1.

I am one of the dreamers the editorial referenced who has a vision for Cedar Lake. I ride my bike around the lake with friends and family nearly year-round. I see people fishing, kayaking, walking, jogging and I’m amazed by this unique urban lake experience. With the city’s acquisition of the lake and the land, we can begin engineering in earnest and are now eligible for grants designated for public entities. City ownership also paves the way for flood mitigation.

Cedar Lake’s transformation includes adding ADA-accessible paddle sport launches and landing docks, floating islands, fishing jetties, preserved wetlands and educational signage. A boardwalk on the south shore of the 120-acre lake will provide trail users an on-the-water experience. It also includes a nature-based playground and enhanced park entrances.

ConnectCR will revitalize Cedar Lake as well as build the Smokestack Bridge. This iconic bridge will span the Cedar River near the new Mount Trashmore recreational area and provide safe passage over the river for bikers, walkers and runners. The bridge will offer beautiful vistas of downtown and the river. In the evening, LED lights will illuminate the smokestack tower.

The bridge crossing enhances the 100-mile Cedar Valley Nature Trail from Cedar Falls to Iowa City and connects Cedar Rapids to two national, coast-to-coast trails: The American Discovery Trail and the Great American Rail-Trail.

ConnectCR is for everyone. Once completed, nearly 5,100 low-to-moderate-income households will be within a 10-minute walk of either the lake or the bridge. ConnectCR will significantly contribute to the quality of life of our residents and to the economic vitality of our community.

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We’ve already come a long way in fundraising. The City of Cedar Rapids has pledged $5 million and together with a $5 million matching grant from The Hall-Perrine Foundation will help fund half of the $20 million project. We’ve raised almost $5 million of our $7 million ConnectCR Awakening Connections capital campaign goal thanks to many of Cedar Rapids’ largest employers, including MidAmerican Energy Company, ITC Midwest, Transamerica, Cargill, Collins Aerospace and the McGrath Family of Dealerships. I also want to give special thanks to the John and Cindy Family Foundation for leading the way by donating $1 million.

ConnectCR will make Cedar Rapids a recreational destination for people around the world — creating economic impact — year-round.

Please consider a donation to ConnectCR’s Awakening Connections campaign. With your help, we can make ConnectCR a reality. Not just for a week — but for generations to come.

l Mike McGrath, is a member of the ConnectCR Steering Committee and is campaign chair.

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