Posts tagged Squaw Creek Park

Green space saved???

Dave Smith, parks superintendent for the city of Cedar Rapids, shared some news with me that might spell the end to thoughts of selling land the city owns next to Squaw Creek Park.

Cedar Rapids has 301 acres near Highway 13 and 100, most of which is used for Gardner Golf Course. Just under 40 acres are in prairie land, along with space leased by the city to gardeners. The Cedar Rapids City Council was mulling the sale of those 40 acres to fund renovations to the Twin Pines Golf Course, but that might be out of the question.

Smith told me that the land was purchased with federal money under the Housing and Urban Development’s Open Space Act – at a cost of $194,417 back on Aug. 5, 1963. The property was purchased from a private landowner named Julius Bigger, according to the documents. Under that act, which the federal government continues to monitor, if the city chose to sell the land, it would have to replace the open space with equally sized and equally valued land. That would mean finding 40 acres or so elsewhere and purchasing it in today’s dollars, not the value of the land as it was in 1963. So really, the city would have nothing to gain, and probably much to lose, in selling the property.

Smith gave credit to the visionary city leaders at that time for having the foresight to obtain green space for its residents. “We want to stick with that original agreement,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how long ago it was.”


The City Council plans to discuss the Twin Pines Task Force’s report regarding funding options at the council meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday (March 5) at City Hall. It might be worth it to attend and see if the option of selling green space – maybe elsewhere – arises.

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It’s SUMMER!!! (just click here)

Silly me. I invited the Cedar Rapids City Council and the Golf Course Task Force to take a look at the city gardens and prairie land near Squaw Creek Park in the middle of February.

Right now, the view would be similar to what we’re seeing everywhere: snow, snow and more snow. And even though all the school snow days are getting a bit old,  my 10-year-old son took advantage of one of them to come up with a slideshow, showing scenes from our leased city garden from summers past. 

To remember what summer is like, just click below.

see slideshow here

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How I solve the city’s budget crunch

Now that the Cedar Rapids City Council has come up with $2.2 million in new and increased fees, I’m off the hook for solving all of the city’s budget problems (whew!) And I agree that fees are the way to go – for the most part – in making up for shortfalls by having primary users pay for those services.

That still doesn’t solve the Twin Pines golf course renovation dilemma, for which I’ve been challenged to come up with a solution.

The Council heard a loud public outcry against a proposal last year to sell part of  Twin Pines’ 150 acres to pay for up to $2 million in golf course renovations. I’ve heard little about a proposal for the same purpose to sell land next to Squaw Creek Park that the city owns, most of which is planted in prairie grass, along with 100 plots that city residents lease for gardens. I don’t imagine that Linn County will be jumping in with a pile of money to buy and preserve that land – but what about it, current and future Linn supervisors?

Perhaps Cedar Rapids could sell clubhouse naming rights to help fund the golf course renovation. Or  look to the example set by the city of Marion in funding its library, through a public-private partnership, starting with the help of a generous donor. Let’s see… are there any big-time golfers from Cedar Rapids who might be approached about such a proposal? Or they could look to the major effort led by our own Chuck Peters in finding $500,000 in community support for the four Marvin Cone and Grant Wood paintings that the Chamber planned to auction. Even the brick-by-brick naming approach could be a start. If the cause is a worthy one, people will support it. 

 I wouldn’t mind having a closer place to lease a garden in the city.  Cedar Rapids might offer empty city lots for community gardens, as Boston and other cities have done. But that doesn’t turn back the clock should the 90 or so acres near Squaw Creek Park be sold to developers. Once green space is gone, it’s gone forever.

 I realize my friends at the gardens – the potato guy; Hippie gardener, chemical granny and others – may not have the same voice that golfers and other Twin Pines supporters do. (Some of us would oppose selling public green space at either site.) And I’m pretty sure we won’t hear from the ground squirrels, monarch butterflies, goldfinch and other wildlife we regularly see in and near our gardens. So, I’d like to ask the golf course task force and City Council to take a look for themselves before they make a shortsighted decision to sell the land.

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” (Ecologist Baba Dioum)      

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Another so-called brilliant idea to sell green space

thumbnail1.jpgI see city councilman Kris Gulick wants Cedar Rapids to consider selling property it owns outside the city limits. And he has eyes on a place of refuge not only for gardeners, but for a rare abundance of wildlife that is getting crowded into ever-shrinking parcels of land.

What possible value could those 90 or so acres have next to Squaw Creek Park if they aren’t part of the 18-hole golf course? It’s only prairie grass, planted next to garden plots where city dwellers like me can lease space that we don’t have at home. Along with a summers-long supply of fresh vegetables for our families, a sense of community and friendships have grown.

To Gulick and others, what better place to smack down a new housing development. To me, it’s where my sons and other city kids have a chance to connect with nature. The  prairie grasses are home to quail, ground squirrels and numerous other critters.  I’ve seen dozens of our state bird, the goldfinch, descend on the sunflowers my sons grow at the city leased gardens –  birds that, for some reason, no longer come to our backyard in Cedar Rapids. 

I have shadowy “Bigfoot-style” video footage of a tiny gray fox that crept near the gardens on two  occasions and shot pictures of an unusual snake that I wanted my naturalist sister to identify.

I saw a whole field lit up with lightning bugs that rivaled the best fireworks display that the Cedar Rapids Freedom Fest has ever paid for and an early evening that I like to remember as the night of the dragonflies.

Nearby, in some scrub trees that are obviously worthless to the city, I watched a brilliant deep blue bird fly back and forth that my grandmother helped me identify as an indigo bunting, one that even she has rarely seen in her 90-plus years of bird watching. If you’ve never seen one, you’ve missed one of Iowa’s most stunning birds. If the acres next to the park become another development, our chances of seeing another indigo bunting become about as rare as hitting a hole-in-one. 

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