COUNCIL BLUFFS — Work on River's Edge Park has been postponed for several months because of the rising waters of the Missouri River, but there's been no significant damage to the developing riverfront park, said Council Bluffs Parks Director Larry Foster.
“The way the park is flooding is what we thought it would be,” he said. “The assumption we made in the design has proven to be correct. There is no evidence of damage.”
Because the river level is expected to remain high for months, construction might not resume until next year, Foster said. That could push back completion until December 2012, he said.
Foster noted that 80 percent of the park, which spreads out from the eastern end of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, is meant to remain in its natural wetlands environment. The park is being designed so that when flooding does occur, water will drain away naturally.
Foster said the water is being held in a way that it won't spread outward or erode the soil. The site was designed to hold water like a bathtub, he said.
“It comes up gradually like a bathtub and will go back down,” Foster said.
The 85-acre park is being built entirely west of the Missouri River levee, on the so-called “wet side.”
The current construction is the first of several phases that will stretch the park from far north of the pedestrian bridge to Harrah's Casino & Hotel on the south and will feature a beach-like sand area in front of a raised Great Lawn. A two-lane park road will meander for a mile throughout, along with paved walking and biking trails that will connect with the bridge.
Designed for quick recovery and cleanup from any flooding, the land will gradually rise as it continues east from the riverbank, to reduce damage from river flooding.
Fill dirt is raising the area that will be transformed into the Great Lawn. About 35,000 cubic yards of dirt already has been brought in, mostly for the Great Lawn, and compacted onto the ground, Foster said.
Still, the Great Lawn area is partially wet today and soon will be entirely under water. Prior to this year, a study Foster did of flooding potential at the site found no year since 1984 in which the site had been completely submerged.
Council Bluffs unveiled the park plans in January 2010. The Iowa West Foundation has committed $5.45 million to the project, while $5.6 million in city funds is coming out of its Capital Improvement Plan.
The city also set aside $30,000 per year for cleanup and maintenance expenses for the park. That fund was established after Foster studied 1984 through 2010 river levels and concluded that in only four of those years would cleanup costs have exceeded $13,500, with the most being a little more than $20,000 in 1997 and 2010.