As a catalyst for redevelopment and to create greater resilience in the face of repetitive flood events along the Iowa River and Ralston Creek, two important goals of the Riverfront Crossings master plan are to move critical infrastructure and development out of the Iowa River floodplain to the extent possible, transform the area into a new riverfront park and restore and enhance Ralston Creek to become a community asset. The City recently completed a master planning effort for the new park, the first phase of which will be located at the former site of the City’s North Wastewater Treatment Plant -- which was recently demolished and removed from the site. The site was seeded to prevent erosion.
Iowa City has realized several large floods along the Iowa River that have created extensive damage to public, private and University of Iowa properties. In an effort to move critical infrastructure facilities out of the floodplain after the major flood event in 2008, the City secured funding through the Iowa Flood Mitigation Program to decommission and demolish the City’s North Wastewater Treatment Plant and convert the area into a new riverfront park. This park will provide public open space, recreational facilities, and access and trail connections to the river and the adjacent mixed-use redevelopment area. In addition, it will serve as a more sustainable and natural means of flood protection for the adjacent urban neighborhood as well as a demonstration of stormwater management through artful rainwater design.
The Riverfront Crossings Park Master Plan includes project goals, a plan view of the park, a preliminary grading plan, riverfront connection and circulation plan and description of major elements (park, recreational and celebration of arts and culture). The goals for the park are to:
- Promote better environmental stewardship of our urban waters, in this case the Iowa River and Ralston Creek;
- Improve public access to the Iowa River and Ralston Creek through enhanced trail connections, boardwalks, creek crossings, river overlooks and by providing new opportunities to get down to the water for fishing, boating, wildlife viewing and other activities;
- Provide a variety of active and passive recreational opportunities for all seasons;
- Transform the land from impervious industrial hardscape into a regenerative and flood-resilient riverfront greenspace, with native trees and landscaping, improved riparian corridors, wetlands, natural river and stream bank restoration, open greens, gardens and plazas that will invite quiet contemplation, nature play, environmental education, community gathering, festivals and events;
- Include features, elements and programming in the park that celebrate Iowa City as a “river town” and as a center for literature, art, and local history and culture; and
- Consider the park a “changeable canvas” for environmental education, recreation and community events, celebrations and programs that respond to current and future needs and desires of the community as the new Riverfront Crossings neighborhood grows around it.