Tue, Jan 31, 2017

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The Story County Conservation Board on Tuesday revealed its plans to create a multi-use nature park within an unused area in the Iowa State University Research Park over the next several years.

The Tedesco Environmental Learning Corridor, which would be on the roughly 30 acres between Workiva's location and the Economic Core Development Facility inside the ISU Research Park, is projected to cost around $4 million over three years, County Conservation director Mike Cox said.

The proposed park would be named after conservation board member and former Ames Mayor Ted Tedesco, who backed the project from its inception. He said the park would emphasize the "four C's:" collaboration between ISU, local conservationists and other groups, cooperation, conservation and connectivity to the High Trestle Bridge Trail.

Landscape architect Andrew Dawson said the park will have several paved trails for walkers and bikers mixed with more narrow trails covered with mulch and natural material. Those smaller paths would lead guests closer to the creek, the three ponds and two wetland areas within the planned park.

Another feature of the park plan is the addition of several meeting places, piers and boardwalks to encourage people to gather for field trips, or for Research Park occupants to hold business meetings outside near the water.

The proposal also connects its bike trails to already-existing trail systems and has access points from University Boulevard, South Riverside Drive and South Loop Road, by car and bike.

Luke Monat, a civil engineer with architecture firm Shive Hattery, said restoring the creek to what it was like decades ago is the first goal of the project because it would reconnect the creek to the floodplains around it. He said much of the creek has bank drops from 5 to 9 feet deep, and when heavy rain comes into the area, the rushing water erodes the banks and brings sedimentary pollutants into the water supply.

He said raising the creekbed or lowering the floodplains would also improve local water quality, as the running water and reintroduction of local wetland plants would dislodge less sediment from the banks and flow more easily into the floodplain.

"When we look at our current conditions, we're in a state of disrepair," he said.

Jean Eells, owner of Webster City-based education consultant E Resources Group, said the plans feature "nodes" where students from first grade to the college level can observe the wetlands and other ecological features up close.

She said being able to give input in the early stages of the project allowed her to devise ways to keep students engaged during trips instead of wandering aimlessly from location to location within the park area.

"As an educator, I understand what it takes to have groups of all ages, all sizes, all kinds of activity outside," she said. "My ears were on what could be the educational opportunities."

Cox said the public has until Feb. 13 to send in comments on the plan and can attend the Conservation Board meeting that day to give input as well. He said the board hopes to begin restoring the creek in either the summer or fall of this year.

The project is tentatively set to be completed sometime in the second half of 2019.

Read at amestrib.com