WATERLOO — Two communities will have better access to recreational water activities thanks to grants from the Black Hawk County Gaming Association.

On Monday, the city of Shell Rock received $50,000 toward a new aquatic center to replace its older one. And Buchanan County received $34,715 for a river access point near the Iron Bridge on the Wapsipinicon River.

Both projects received 100% of their requested amounts.

Those grants were among more than $200,000 handed out Monday.

“It’s a really good section of river for many reasons. It’s got some of the most scenic areas on the Wapsi,” said Dan Cohen, Buchanan County Conservation executive director, of the river access. The section of river includes bluffs, a historical Frank Loyd Wright home and good fishing.

Planning for the Shell Rock Aquatic Center began in the spring of 2018, said Casey Reints, co-chair of Diving for Dollars, an organization working to make the aquatic center a reality. The project will cost an estimated $2.65 million.

“Within six months we had raised $100,000 straight from our community which was awesome,” Reints said.

The community voted overwhelmingly to support a $2 million bond referendum for the project in March.

The current pool in Shell Rock was built in the 1970s and isn’t handicap accessible.

“That’s a huge need right now because we’ve got patrons who are relying on other people to help them in the water,” Reints said. “We just don’t have enough water surface space to meet the demand.”

The river access has become a popular gateway for some of Iowa’s water trails, and the grant will help it meet rising demand from recreational boaters.

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“To make this a better gateway for public use we’re going to redo the ramp system and the parking lot,” Cohen said. The overall cost of the river is $400,000.

“It’s been in our long-term plan for at least five years or more,” Cohen said. “The access has really exponentially grown in river use.”

The project also received a water recreation access grant from the state and a Wellmark Association grant as well, he said.

Cohen hopes to get bids for the project this summer. Construction should be finished in about a year, he said.

“It’s one of the nicest stretches of river in the state of Iowa,” Cohen said. “It’s a really good place to come to visit.”

The Gaming Association awarded more than $200,000 to various municipal organizations outside of Black Hawk County on Monday night.

The 16-member board reviewed and scored 10 proposals and awarded grants to eight projects, six of which received partial funding. The association funds projects outside of Black Hawk County once annually. Previously the association announced grants for such projects twice a year, said Beth Knipp, Black Hawk County Gaming Association executive director.

Municipalities, school districts and nonprofit groups all can apply.

Other organizations that will receive grants include:

  • Lawler Fire Department, $32,500 for a response vehicle.
  • City of Garwin, $12,025 for safety preparedness
  • Dysart Ambulance, $19,500 for cardiac care.
  • Winthrop Fire Rescue, $47,450 toward a new vehicle.
  • Jesup Police Department, $10,487 toward a patrol vehicle.
  • City of Fairbank, $1,300 toward a library information technology kiosk.

The Black Hawk County Gaming Association is the nonprofit license holder for the Isle Casino Hotel in Waterloo. The group receives 5.75% of adjusted gross revenue from gaming at the casino. There are 19 other such organizations in Iowa.

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