CEDAR RAPIDS — Residents can help the city transform parts of the flood-hit, westside riverfront of the Cedar River into three greenway areas.
On Wednesday, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department will hold the first of three public-input sessions to solicit ideas from residents about what features to include in what the city is now calling the Time Check, Kingston and Czech Village Greenway Parks.
At the same time, the city’s Department of Community Development also will be on hand at the museum and library to talk about the development of a new comprehensive plan for the city.
Sven Leff, the city’s parks and recreation director, said the Wednesday evening session on the new greenways is intended as a brainstorming event, what he called "a huge, anything-is-possible, idea-generation" event.
Leff said his hope is that the three greenway areas — about 65 acres in Time Check, 35 acres at Czech Village and 10 acres between First Street SW and the river at Kingston Village across from downtown — will become must-go-to places once they are completed, a process which could cost $15 million and take 10 years to complete.
"I think it would be great, once it is built out, for people to say, ‘I have to show you this part of town. It’s a beautiful day, I’ve got to be down there because it’s so cool,’" Leff said.
The city has hired design company Confluence, with offices in Iowa City and Des Moines, to help elicit public input and turn it into final designs for the three greenway areas. The work should be complete by July.
"I think the opportunities are phenomenal," said Brenda Nelson, a landscape architect with Confluence in Iowa City, who is the Cedar Rapids greenway project manager. "It’s right in the heart of the city.
"You have neighborhoods there, really distinctive historic features. It’s an opportunity to create a corridor of activity, to bring this area to life."
Leff said Confluence on Wednesday will lead a hands-on exercise that will give participants a chance to move pieces around to see what kind of park amenities might fit in each of the three greenway areas.
Among the possible amenities will be multipurpose ball fields, a skate park, picnic areas, open-sided pavilions, community gardens, sculpture, playgrounds, trees, plantings, wetlands, floating fishing piers and more, he said.
A trail will connect each of the greenways to the city’s trail system, he said.
Gail Loskill, parks and recreation communications coordinator, said she hopes residents will bring ideas they’ve seen and liked in other cities and countries to the public-input sessions.
"We’re hoping to get more than just the traditional items," Loskill said.
Leff said much of the park area along the riverfront between First Street SW and the river in what is now known as Kingston Village has been in place for 40 to 50 years. The concrete planters and stairs there "have gotten old and tired, and if a pump for a fountain broke in winter, it might not get repaired," he said.
He said those structures will go with the new design.
As the Kingston Greenway gets near the 5-in-1 bridge and dam, Leff envisioned a short trail down to the river as a place where people could fish at the water and put in kayaks and canoes. He wondered if an outfitter might set up a bike-and-kayak rental operation.
The city’s new McGrath Amphitheatre already is in place along the river as part of what will become the Kingston Greenway Park.
Leff said federal flood-recovery dollars used to buy out flood-damaged homes in Time Check and between 17th and 21st Avenues SW at Czech Village will limit the construction of permanent structures in the greenways that might impede the flow of water during a flood.
That means no dugouts, chain link fences or permanent bleachers, he said.
The greenways will become part of the city’s flood protection system and will be designed in coordination with it, Leff said.
The city has submitted a proposal this year to the Iowa Legislature, asking for $6 million of support for the greenway construction.
After Wednesday evening’s input session, the Parks and Recreation Department will hold follow-up sessions on April 24 and June 12 as ideas move into a final design.
Residents also can provide input at the city of Cedar Rapids website or at its CR Talks website.
Leff said initial work could begin later this years and likely will start with the removal of some streets and other city infrastructure that no longer are being used in the greenway areas.
"We might see some of the character of these places yet in 2014," he said.