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Rain Forest Letters

Des Moines Register

December 16, 2005

[Note: This material is copyright by the Des Moines Register, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of the Des Moines Register.]

Money could save the real rain forest . . .

Since this ludicrous subject of blowing millions and millions of dollars on a proposed Iowa rain-forest complex is still in the news, I'll say that this would be a sinfully wasteful venture on the part of the citizens and state of Iowa.

Simply put, not only is one of the largest indoor rain forests on Iowa's border in Omaha, but the proposed $180 million expense could literally salvage the actual rain forest in Latin America if spent there instead.

How outstanding would that be if we Iowans earned international respect by raising several hundred million dollars to change the course of natural history in the Western Hemisphere instead of building another impractical tourist destination?

I've been involved in Iowa tourism for 20 years and have learned that it is not necessarily the venue that creates tourism, but rather the event or activity at that venue. The state has already shot way too many millions of dollars on creating new venues. My philosophy is to promote what already exists for physical attractions by putting more activities and events into them.

For example, the Amana Colonies continue to be worth the trip because they've added interesting new festivals. And without public funding, the Sleepy Hollow Sports Park team in Des Moines is creating a wonderful new castle/village "theme park" area for a series of upcoming statewide events.

Let's not waste that profound amount of money and resources, public or private, on this crazed indoor rain-forest plan . . . unless, of course, we can place it at Clear Lake near my house.

-Gregory Schmidt, president, Festivals International, Clear Lake.

In Iowa, we are planning to pave over rich farmland to build a rain forest. In Brazil, they cut down rain forests to grow corn and soybeans. Take the tax money that would be spent on the pork-barrel hothouse and send anyone who so desires to Brazil to see a real rain forest and leave the land the way it is in both places.

I certainly don't profess to have any special knowledge of such big deals. Perhaps we should ask some local experts to explain this. Bill Knapp, Denny Elwell, Mark Wandro, can you help us with this?

-Mark Lagomarcino, West Des Moines.

. . . And the real environment

It is amazing that anyone or any community is still seriously considering supporting the absurd idea of the rain forest, now called for no logical reason the "Iowa Environmental Project." I am trusting that Des Moines, with all of its current worthwhile projects, would immediately dismiss the idea. For one thing the new name, which supposedly presents a new image, is a misnomer.

A project such as improving the quality of our streams would be appropriately named an environmental project, but this artificial rain forest in the Midwest is only remotely and indirectly related to the environment.

My hope would be that "our" $50 million that Sen. Chuck Grassley so carelessly directed toward this project can be directed to some really necessary environmental purpose in Iowa. Let's bury this white elephant once and for all.

-Jim Thomas, Clive.

Rain forest idea is world-class

I have followed the Register's articles regarding the proposed rain forest project in Coralville and fail to understand why the citizens of Coralville and all Iowans are not embracing this wonderful proposal. Look to our friends in Montreal, Canada, who have made tourism an art form. Their Montreal Biodome affords the opportunity to experience four different ecosystems including a tropical rain forest. This great attraction is busy year-around, allowing visitors to literally walk through environments most would only read about or see on television. If not Coralville, I certainly hope an Iowa community with vision rises to the occasion to create a world-class destination.

-Mark Lemon, Mason City.

Use project to develop energy institute

A primary challenge civilization faces is the need for an economically and environmentally sustainable source of energy. The country that focuses research and capital on this task may lead the world into the next century. China and India are accumulating the intellectual and financial capital necessary for this, and the United States is at risk of being left behind.

If the rain-forest project does not develop in Coralville, then perhaps Iowa could take the opportunity to use this capital for the greater good of the country. An energy-research institute could draw on the resources of the University of Iowa and the Oakdale Research Park while maintaining the rain forest's focus on education and environmental awareness.

This could be a chance to bring the academic, business and agricultural communities together to develop a sustainable energy source for future generations. Placing such a facility next to a major interstate highway would not be a waste of valuable property but an opportunity to educate the public about the importance of this challenge and could draw jobs, conferences and tourist dollars.

-Robert Latta, Iowa City.