City Park on the way back from flood

BY AMANDA McCLURE | MARCH 27, 2009 7:35 AM

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After nearly a year of rebuilding, City Park will once again host summer Little League and Shakespeare festivals.

Construction is coming to a close on the park, which sustained extensive damage during last summer’s flood, and officials believe the park’s amenities — including the tennis courts, softball and baseball fields, and carnival rides — will be ready by Memorial Day.

“It seems like City Park is a constant reminder of the amount of damage that was done to Iowa City by the flood,” Iowa City Mayor Regenia Bailey said. “The sooner we can get it restored, the better it’s going to be for everyone.”

Iowa City Parks and Recreation superintendent Mike Moran said renovating the park was an obvious priority for the department.

“It’s one of the largest parks in the city,” he said. “So many people rely on City Park for sports, activities, and general day-to-day things. Having it complete for this summer was always our goal.”

While Moran is unsure of the exact reconstruction price, he said, money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will fund the project. Parks and Recreation Department officials have compiled a list of costs and damages they plan to present to FEMA in May or June, he said.

The department must work within the parameters of the FEMA cost estimates, he said, but it should be able to get the majority of the renovations covered with federal funds.

“We’re always aiming for faster renovations and construction projects,” Moran said.

Renovation to Riverside Theatre’s outdoor arena — home of the annual Shakespeare Festival — will end before the opening night of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on June 12, said Judy Hovland, the theater’s artistic director.

“We are eternal optimists. We knew we’d be able to get back to our home stage for this year’s performances,” she said. “We’ll be back performing under the Moon this year.”

Hovland said company members missed performing on the outside stage. Last year, the festival relocated to City High at the last minute because of the severe flood damage.

“City Park is the crown jewel of the city, and it’s crucial we get it back to normal again,” Iowa City City Councilor Mike O’Donnell said. “There are so many activities that depend on City Park, and we need to be able to put some normalcy back in the area.”

City officials are trying to find ways to help reduce the chances of the park’s flooding again, but O’Donnell said nothing is guaranteed. As a part of its flood-relief plan, the city is working to elevate Dubuque Street and Park Road Bridge near City Park.

“I don’t know what you can do to completely prevent it,” O’Donnell said. “I’ve lived in Iowa City my entire life, and I’ve never seen so much flooding in that park before.”

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