Construction underway on Charles City Riverfront Park - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Construction underway on Charles City Riverfront Park

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CHARLES CITY (KWWL) -- Work is underway on a major riverfront project in Eastern Iowa. Crews in Charles City are more than halfway to completion on a whitewater park. It's just one part of the plan to revitalize the banks of the Cedar River in Chucktown.

"This isn't going to just change the face of the way Charles City views their river, it's going to change the way the entire state has to view their rivers," said Ty Graham of the group Prairie River Paddlers.

In just a few short weeks, the Cedar River in Charles City has taken a new shape, transforming from a regular river, to a state-of-the-art whitewater kayaking course.

"Charles City is on the forefront of projects in Iowa. There is probably half a dozen, six other projects around the country that are following on the coattails of Charles City, so they're setting a precedent," said project engineer Shane Sigle of Recreational Engineering and Planning out of Boulder, CO.

Developers are taking that responsibility to heart. The goal is to show other communities a whitewater park will improve the overall standard of living. It's part of the reason Prairie River Paddlers brought the idea to Charles City City Council in 2006.

"These aren't just trashways, or these aren't just nuisances running through our town, these are viable economic and recreation amenities we have," explained Graham.

"The Midwest in general is suffering from the kids leaving, and the communities growing older, and the economic downturn. This is a classic example of trying to keep the kids there, keep the recreation going, keeping people fit and active and outside," said Sigle.

City planners are hoping the project will draw new visitors, and new economic opportunities, to Charles City.

"As they said in Dyersville, build it and they will come," said Planning and Project Supervisor Tracy Meihe.

"That's going to bring people from out of the state into the state. They're going to need a place to sleep, a place to eat, and why wouldn't you buy a T-shirt here -- I paddled in Iowa. I would!" added Graham.

Kayaking is only one piece of the Riverfront Park project. Crews are building a handicap accessible boat ramp, and plan to create an amphitheater. The city is also taking wildlife into account, creating an area of small rocks for fish to swim through. Department of Natural Resources and Iowa Great Places grants are funding the bulk of the $1.65 million project.

You can watch the project's progress live, 24 hours a day, on the Cedar River Webcam.  Click here to view the web site.

Online Reporter Colleen O'Shaughnessy

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