Parkview makes slow post-flood comeback

BY AMY MATTSON | JUNE 29, 2009 7:21 AM

Nothing makes for better summertime grilling than a bit of floodwater — at least according to former Parkview Terrace resident Greg Schrock.

When the Iowa City homeowner spotted an abandoned diesel barrel on the Iowa River’s swollen banks last June, he rescued it from the deluge and put it to good use.

“Sure, I helped clean up,” he joked. “I took this barrel home, cleaned it up, and two weeks later it was a grill.”

Despite the light-hearted banter, he knows difficult circumstances as well as anyone. He and other neighborhood denizens were forced to flee their homes last summer because of the high waters.

Iowa City City Councilor Mike Wright admits the faces at Parkview Terrace have changed.

“It’s a great community,” he said. “But I don’t think it will ever be the way it was before.”

Out of approximately 140 homes in the neighborhood, 130 were flooded, estimated former riverfront commissioner and Parkview Terrace homeowner Doug Jones.

Several never came back. And, similar to Schrock, a few will take advantage of Iowa City’s federally funded home buyout program for areas hit hardest by the disaster. The city aims to purchase 40 properties at 112 percent of their appraised value.

But Jerry Anthony — a Parkview Terrace resident who vacated his home last summer — said it’s not just a matter of money.

“The event was pretty traumatic,” he said. [My family and I] just wanted to put it past us."

A walk through the neighborhood reveals many current inhabitants are trying to do the same.

Several houses are under construction, being elevated off ground level or otherwise flood-proofed.

And even residents whose homes escaped major damage are attempting to rebuild in a different way, piecing back together feelings of normalcy.

“We weren’t affected so badly except for our brains,” said Roberta Till Retz, who lives on Manor Drive.

Be that as it may, the neighborhood is making an effort to raise the people’s spirits. The community gathered on a recent Saturday to mark the flood’s anniversary — where Schrock’s grill attracted current residents and former neighbors.

But for Noah Knosp, elevated cheer didn’t rest on hamburgers. He was focused on T-shirt sales.
Seated at a small table at the edge of the activity — and barely visible above his mound of wares — the young entrepreneur was ready for business.

He unfolded one of the T-shirts and placed it across the heap. “Mosquito Flats Flood Veterans,” it read. “So much fun that 100 years feels like 15.”

For residents, it’s a bit of an inside joke. Though much of Parkview Terrace is marked as lying in the 100-year flood plain, the Iowa River has overflowed into the flats twice in the last 15 years. The previous surge occurred in 1993.

But if you ask Jones, that’s two times too many — and he’s not kidding around.

“The flats weren’t realistically planned in terms of safety,” he said.

Several Parkview Terrace homes and the Park Road bridge acted as dams during the flood, raising neighborhood water levels by up to 7 inches, he said.

“It was a mess,” said Beverly Gartner, a resident of 26 years. “The most heartbreaking part was seeing people’s [damaged] things. Whole lives were sitting on the curb.”

And as evidenced by the sound of hammers, the rebuilding isn’t over yet. It will take an estimated five years before future flood-mitigation strategies are thoroughly implemented and victim funding completely allocated, said City Councilor Connie Champion.

But despite difficulties surrounding recovery, residents remained hopeful, spreading stories and laughter at their June 13 gathering. They uncorked wine bottles and threw open picnic baskets, and flood survivor Becky Hall lifted her glass for a toast.

“To a better year,” she said.

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