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Time to Pull Plug on Rain Forest

Carol deProsse and Clara Oleson

Iowa City Press-Citizen

November 22, 2005

[Note: This material is copyright by the Press-Citizen, 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 Iowa City Press-Citizen.]

The idea for a simulated rain forest was first proposed to the city of Des Moines, where it was rejected by elected officials and the business community. Backers Ted Townsend and Robert Ray then approached Cedar Rapids and negotiations were under way when Coralville's City Council and City Manager wooed it south.

David Oman, project director, has now gone behind the backs of Coralville representatives to try and talk Dubuque into accepting what has become a figment of imagination.

SAVE (Stop A Vast Error) objected to this project from the outset, believing not only that a fake rain forest was an inappropriate tourist attraction for Iowa, but also that the financial data provided by the backers was unrealistic, especially in view of the fact that many such projects were unable to be self-supporting and either forced to close their doors or to rely on tax dollars for continued operations.

It has always been our belief that a majority of the area's residents and elected officials did not support this project, but despite massive outpourings of opposition, the idea of the simulated rain forest managed to stay on the civic agenda through the sheer will and undue political muscle of Ted Townsend, Robert Ray and David Oman. When Republican Senator Charles Grassley managed to get $50 million worth of pork in the Energy Bill for this boondoggle, a positive end for the backers seemed to be in sight. This money also permitted Mr. Oman to begin drawing a salary against the grant in excess of $175,000 a year. For its bit, Coralville displaced nearly 70 small businesses employing hundreds of employees and eliminating a significant tax base.

It is time to pull the plug on the simulated rain forest. We hope that the elected representatives of the people of Iowa will finally stop falling for the fancy talk and false promises of the project's backers.

Carol deProsse
Clara Oleson
Co-founders of SAVE