Supervisors made the right call at Morgan Creek Park

Board's vote to expand parkland and other local efforts are making the region more livable.

Todd Dorman
Published: January 21 2014 | 8:39 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 2:25 am in

Last year, about this time, I was pretty hard on the Linn County Board of Supervisors for giving themselves a fat pay raise. Still sticks in my craw.

But it only seems fair that I praise them this year for making a good call.

And the board’s move to buy roughly 70 acres of land west of Cedar Rapids to expand the county’s 230-acre Morgan Creek Park is a very good call. Any time our elected officials pick the responsible long view over short-term gains, we should take notice.

Once the long-awaited Highway 100 extension between Edgewood Road and U.S. Highway 30 is completed, the land around Morgan Creek Park will begin filling in as fast as developers, builders and businesses can carve up and color in its parcels. Pavement, vinyl siding and sod will replace the rural landscape with remarkable speed. So this was the county’s last shot to expand the park. Instead of dithering and endlessly studying, the county took that shot.

Sure, it might mean a slightly longer drive between gas, 64-ounce pop and jerky stops. Perhaps we’ll be short a cul-de-sac or two. Maybe there will be one or two fewer glen ridge villa brook creek housing development. But we’ll survive. And when we wander around Morgan Creek Park’s arboretum, take a picnic, camp for the night, or someday bike its trails as part of a regional network, I doubt we’ll feel bad for those losses.

I was encouraged to read that more than a dozen people showed up last week at a public hearing to praise the idea. The land is pricey, $1.7 million. But public park land in Iowa is scarce. And too few government officials get out ahead of development to consider the merit of limits and breathing room. They react and incentivize. Then, later, too much later, they look at dense tendrils of sprawl with regret.

Sure, this isn’t splashy like Westdale redevelopment or a casino, but it’s an important win for a better quality of life. And it’s just one among many encouraging signs.

Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett and city leaders have firmly nudged the Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization to pump more bucks into the development of a trails system connecting existing trails in several metro communities. Instead of spending money on trail plans that collect dust, the MPO’s investment could actually finish what we started. And the place we live becomes more livable. Bonus.

We also should keep an eye on the Friends of Cedar Lake, a group hoping to breathe new life into the industrial lake just north of downtown. Having worked for a decade in Des Moines, where a reclaimed urban lake, Gray’s Lake, has become a great community asset, I’m intrigued by Cedar Lake’s potential.

With big players involved, including the city and Alliant Energy, and the lake’s water quality issues, Friends of Cedar Lake may have an uphill push on its hands. But it makes sense to raise the lake’s profile now as the city’s flood protection plans take shape.

The opportunity is there, clearly. The lake already is served by the Cedar Valley Trail. Its proximity to downtown makes it a natural extension of efforts to boost quality of life in the city’s core.

So good work, supervisors, and other local leaders. Don’t say I never say anything nice.


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