Iowa River would become a ‘pedal paddling destination’ under proposed plan

A cyclist rides the Iowa River Trail at the confluence of Clear Creek and the Iowa River in Coralville on August 31. The cities of Iowa City and Coralville, along with Johnson County, are working on a joint grant application to make the Iowa River a star attraction for residents and visitors. The City of Coralville is planning a new park on the site. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

Clear Creek heads into the Iowa River at Coralville. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

The boat ramp at Sturgis Ferry in Iowa City. The cities of Iowa City and Coralville, along with Johnson County, are working on a joint grant application to make the Iowa River a top attraction for residents and visitors. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

Rendering of Clear Creek Point Park Project in Coralville (Town of Coralville)

A list of potential amenities that are part of the Clear Creek Point park project in Coralville. (Town of Coralville)

A rendering of the Clear Creek Point park project in Coralville during the winter. (Town of Coralville)

A cyclist rides the Iowa River Trail at the confluence of Clear Creek and the Iowa River in Coralville on August 31. The cities of Iowa City and Coralville, along with Johnson County, are working on a joint grant application to make the Iowa River a star attraction for residents and visitors. The City of Coralville is planning a new park on the site. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

A trail marker for the Iowa River Trail at the confluence of Clear Creek and the Iowa River in Coralville. The cities of Iowa City and Coralville, along with Johnson County, are working on a joint grant application to make the Iowa River a top attraction for residents and visitors. The City of Coralville is planning a new park on the site. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

CORALVILLE — Local governments in Johnson County want to make the Iowa River a star attraction for residents and visitors.

With help from Think Iowa City, the cities of Coralville and Iowa City, along with Johnson County, are preparing an application for nearly $6 million to the state’s Destination Iowa program to be submitted in the coming weeks.

The joint application seeks to fund various projects that improve access to water and trails in the county. This includes a new park in Coralville with various amenities, a skatepark renovation in Iowa City, new boat ramps, and the completion of the Clear Creek Trail connection in Kent Park.

“We call ourselves the pedal paddling destination of the Midwest because of all the trail access you can pedal and all the water access you can paddle on,” said Nick Pfeiffer, vice president of Think Iowa City Public Affairs.

The projects included in the grant application are “ready to go” and could start 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 amount of the request, which currently stands at $5.8 million, could change slightly before it is submitted, Pfeiffer said. As it stands, Coralville would receive about 40%, Iowa City 25% and Johnson County 35%, he added.

It’s a collaborative effort with a “united vision,” Pfeiffer said. If the state grants the full amount requested, Pfeiffer said that would support funding for the projects.

Broader vision

The bid projects are part of a larger vision to make the Iowa River a landmark attraction. This vision is also among the priorities identified in the plan released by Project Better Together 2030 earlier this year.

Although the river has been maintained over the decades, it hasn’t been used to its full potential, Pfeiffer said.

“Even though it cuts through the hearts of our communities in our county, we largely ignore it and fail to utilize its beauty 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 Reservoir Dam all the way south to Hills and Riverside. That includes improving the trail system, adding boat ramps so people can easily get on the water, and planning other attractions along the river, Pfeiffer said.

It will provide residents with multiple opportunities for recreation and entertainment, and attract more visitors to the area, he said.

“Cohesive Waterfront” in Coralville

The city of Coralville is looking to develop bicycle and small watercraft amenities where Clear Creek meets the Iowa River just east of First Avenue, said Sherri Proud, the city’s director of parks and recreation. 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, activity shelter, walking loop, pump track and more. A “fix it” station for bikes and a “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 spot for an accessible kayak launch because the water is calmer, Proud said. In the winter, the walking loop could be an ice skating spot.

The park’s ideas and name are in draft form and will be discussed further once funding is secured, Proud said. The project would be carried out in phases.

“We’re talking about leveraging the history of the ice industry on the Iowa River, as well as the factory industry,” Proud said. “There will be ties to Iowa River Landing and making sure you have a cohesive river front here in Coralville with all of these ideas.”

The Iowa City Projects

In Iowa City, the funds would be used to renovate the skatepark and add a bike pump track at Terrell Mill Park, build an off-road bike path on land north of City Park, and improve boat runs in the area.

The skatepark would be expanded and include some additional equipment, Pfeiffer said. The pump track would be for those using BMX type bikes.

It is possible to drop off a boat 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 or a kayak or a canoe on and paddle the Iowa River and then go down to Clear Creek Point Park,” Pfeiffer said.

There are also plans 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 access to it and the amenities there,” Pfeiffer said.

Clear Creek Trail Extension

Johnson County’s portion of the request is to connect Clear Creek Trail to FW Kent Park, Pfeiffer said. The $5 million trail extension secured $3.5 million in funding and is seeking the remaining $1.5 million, The Gazette reported earlier this year.

Clear Creek Trail currently extends from what will be Clear Creek Point Park to the Interstate 80/380 interchange. Once construction of the interchange is complete, the trail will pass under the bridges and connect to the trail at Tiffin.

The requested funds would help extend the 2.5 mile trail from Tiffin to Kent Park.

“We’re hoping this trail will connect here, so you can bike from Iowa City or Coralville, down to Tiffin, and down to Kent Park,” county conservation director Larry Gullett said in May. .

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