Cedar Lake Revitalization            

By Jodi Harris

If you have ever heard the term “It takes a Village,” you can envision the cooperation between the Friends of Cedar Lake, the City of Cedar Rapids, Alliant Energy and Linn County working toward the goal of revitalizing Cedar Lake. It all began in 2013 when Felicia Wyrick, along with Dale Todd, former Cedar Rapids Parks Commissioner and City Council member, formed a group called Friends of Cedar Lake. The diverse group is made up of neighbors, anglers, naturalists and community members who want to see the lake restored to enjoy today and for generations to come. The master plan for the project has been finalized and lays the groundwork for bringing new life to the lake.

“We have been doing outreach in the community for more than three years to change the perception people have of the lake. The results from the IDNR’s Phase II study confirm what we’ve always thought. There is work to be done but there isn’t anything that can stop us now from moving forward to restore the lake to the community asset it can and should be.” Dale Todd, President, Friends of Cedar Lake

Cedar Lake was once believed to be toxic due to high chemical levels, but was removed from the Iowa DNR’s “Impaired Waters List” in 2015. This upgrade, along with the Phase II environmental test results, will continue to improve perceptions of the lake.

The current owner of the lake, Alliant Energy, is in negotiations to transfer ownership to the City of Cedar Rapids as early as this summer. This will allow the publicly held lake to apply for the IDNR Lake Restoration Program and other state and federal grants.

The entire project is a tale of cooperation and combined effort by many entities and community members. Additionally, ConnectCR was formed to combine the Sleeping Giant Bridge restoration in conjunction with the lake revitalization for fundraising purposes. A capital campaign will kick off this fall to raise funds for the projects. Former Cedar Rapids Mayor, Lee Clancey, and local businessman Mike McGrath have agreed to co-chair the fundraising campaign for ConnectCR.

“The trail around Cedar Lake is the hub of our urban system. It has a natural connection to the Third Street biking corridor that leads to the NewBo and Czech Village neighborhoods. The completion of the iconic Sleeping Giant Bridge will solve the pinch point in the 100 miles of trails that extend from Cedar Falls to Iowa City, positioning Cedar Rapids right in the middle of the growing sector of biking tourism in Eastern Iowa and beyond. This project will be a game changer for our community.” Felicia Wyrick, Outreach Chair, Friends of Cedar Lake

The Sleeping Giant Bridge, a former CRANDIC railroad crossing damaged in the flood of 2008, is located just around the river bend south of Czech Village. Restoring the structure will be a great benefit to the surrounding neighborhoods as well as having the potential to become a regional recreational destination. The plan includes converting it into a walking and biking bridge with a split deck to accommodate two-way traffic flow.

The master plan for Cedar Lake has many goals including;
• Implementing a watershed management plan
• Protecting the wildlife habitat
• Providing more recreational opportunities for walkers, runners, bicyclists, kayakers, canoers and fisherman
• Sustaining an existing community asset

Important next steps for the Cedar Lake revitalization project include getting the ownership of the lake transferred to the City and ultimately increasing the depth of the lake and preventing future buildup of sediment. The DNR is also involved with this unique urban lake project, offering their experience in restoring other Iowa lakes.

If you would like to volunteer or make a donation, please go to; www.friendsofcedarlake.com or email info@friendsofcedarlake.com. Fundraising information can be found at www.connectcr.org for both projects.

Thank you to Felicia Wyrick and Dale Todd for information contained in this feature.

Some of the information included in this feature came from
www.friendsofcedarlake.com
and www.connectcr.org.

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