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Iowa City's newest 207-acre recreation area officially opens

BY SHIANNE GRUSS | AUGUST 26, 2013 5:00 AM

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An Iowa City park project proposed more than 15 years ago was officially made a reality this past weekend.

The Terry Trueblood Recreation Area finally held its grand opening on Aug. 24, and it is expected to become the area’s most popular, year-round recreation destination.

The park is located near Sand Road and McCollister Boulevard on the city’s growing South Side. It was acquired from S&J Materials in 2006.

“This is really a milestone for Iowa City,” Mayor Matt Hayek said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the area’s new 150-person park lodge. “We have so few opportunities to introduce substantial public amenities of the quality and of the size like this one.”

The recreation area, a 207-acre former sand and gravel quarry, boasts a marina, lodge, 2-mile-long trail, park shelters, and a 95.5-acre public lake — the third largest in Johnson County. In comparison, Hickory Hill Park on the East Side of Iowa City consists of 185 acres while Waterworks Prairie Park, near Interstate 80, includes 200 acres.

The park has grown in size over the past seven years, when the city of Iowa City purchased nearly 50 acres of prime riverfront property.

To date, Parks and Recreation Director Mike Moran said, the budget for the project numbers, a more than $1 million jump from the park’s 2010 master planning budget.

The once-roughly $6.4 million project, in collaboration with the engineering consulting firm, Snyder & Associates, was completed in phases.

Half of the cost was covered by the city’s general obligation bonds and the other half was covered through various private funds and grants.

While a majority of the park is now open to the public, the beach portion, which will be located on the west shore of Sand Lake, was not completed because of budget issues, and it will not be available to the public until next summer, Moran said.

Nonetheless, business continues to boom for Fin & Feather H2O, an extension of the local outdoor store, located opposite the beach on the lake.

“Every week, we get more and more people out here,” said Connor Blunk, a Fin & Feather employee.

Open since the first week of June, the establishment manages the park’s marina and concessions. Kayak, canoe, pedal boat and paddleboard rentals are available throughout the week at $10 per hour.

“I come out here just to run,” UI senior Jessica Merma said.

However, she said, she is interested in using the boating facilities, especially paddle-boarding, which has limited offerings throughout the state.

Come winter, Fin & Feather plans on adding cross-country skiing and ice skating on the lake. Eventually, Blunk said he hopes to have bicycles and fishing supplies available.

Also available Saturday morning for attendees was a free, outdoor yoga workshop, conducted by Kate Connell, owner of Kate Connell Yoga in Iowa City.

“This workshop was a way for me to bridge the idea of a group yoga class with an individual session,” she said.

Connell normally offers private, in-home sessions and stresses the new-old concept of individualized yoga. She will offer another workshop after the New Year, located inside the recreation area’s main lodge.

A walk for pancreatic cancer followed on Sunday, in memory of former Parks and Recreation director and park namesake, Terry Trueblood. Trueblood died as a result of pancreatic cancer in 2009, just three years after presenting the park’s original plan.

“I’ve heard a lot of people say since grandpa died that they never knew a guy who was more well-liked or more universally-liked than Grandpa,” Patrick Fisher, Trueblood’s grandson, said, before presenting a plaque in his grandfather’s honor.

The first annual Terry Trueblood Walk for Pancreatic Cancer raised money to be divided between the American Cancer Society and a special fund set aside for the maintenance of the recreation area.
The walk is set to be repeated each year around Trueblood’s Aug. 29 birthday.

Matt Pacha, a former chairman of the Parks & Recreation Commission and former president of the Parks and Rec foundation, who spoke at the event, was a key player in acquiring the park’s initial Iowa Vision grant.

“We smiled and laughed and cried through a lot of personal and professional triumphs and setbacks,” he said of Trueblood and their 18-year friendship. “I know Terry’s smiling down on this event.”


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