CEDAR FALLS — A proposal for a Cedar River white-water course and shoreline improvements near downtown took a step forward at a City Council work session Monday.
Council members authorized city staff and consultants to continue work on the preliminary plans, along the river between the Main Street and First Street bridges.
Staff and consultants would have to come back to the full council for approval to proceed with final design plans, David Sturch of the city planning staff said after the work session.
Cedar River white water and riverbank improvements, totaled at nearly $4 million, are planned for fiscal year 2021-22 in the city’s five-year capital improvements plan the council approved earlier this year. However, in the past some projects have moved up depending on public support and private donations.
The city’s capital improvements plan identifies several potential funding sources for the overall white water and riverfront improvement efforts, including flood reserve money, general obligation bonds, federal and state grants, private donations and Black Hawk County Gaming Association funding.
“I think we’ve got to find some champions for it. I think we’ll be able to do it,” said 1st Ward council member Mark Miller, who represents the downtown and North Cedar areas along the river. “I think this is a huge quality of life project for the city and it’s about time we were doing something with that river. I hope we can get the funding raised.”
Council member Susan deBuhr voted against proceeding with the plans. “I like the bank improvements. But it’s $4 million.”
She also questioned consultants’ projections of the number of people using the river and shoreline improvements. She expressed safety concerns associated with the river as well as the possible use of flood reserve money.
“Flood reserve money should be used to help flood victims and recovery from flood” if and when a flood occurs. “It should not be used for a water playground. I’m all for the bank improvement and fishing jetties. But don’t use flood reserve money to pay for it,” deBuhr said.
In September, the council voted 5-2 to contract with Riverwise for $85,000 to plan the improvements.
The city previously had contracted with AECOM of Waterloo for river improvements. AECOM had subcontracted with McLaughlin Whitewater Design Group of Denver, Colo., assisted by HBK Engineering of Chicago to plan the white-water work.
Several council members expressed dissatisfaction with McLaughlin’s work and the council voted 4-3 a year ago to ask city staff to look for a new consultant. Staff issued requests for proposals and recommended Riverwise after an interview process.
Riverwise has local connections to help with the project: Larry Kurtz of AHTS Architects and Waterloo firefighter and white-water enthusiast Ty Graham, who has been working with Waterloo officials on a similar project downtown there as well as existing projects in Manchester and Charles City.
Riverwise representatives said three out of every four people using the river improvement will not be kayakers but people who will be enjoying the riverbank improvements, which would include a couple of riverfront patios for public events, not unlike the RiverLoop Amphtheatre in downtown Waterloo. They also might include lighted fountains and a splash park.