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Rain Forest Deadlines Needed


Iowa City Press-Citizen

August 27, 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 Coralville City Council has made Sept. 20 a make-or-break date for the $180 million, 4.5-acre indoor rain forest project ("City sets deadline for rain forest," Aug. 25).


Councilors are getting impatient with the lack of progress on the high-profile project planned for more than 20 acres of land southeast of Interstate 80 and First Avenue.

Their impatience is showing in comments by a majority of the council as well as council requirements that would be part of the agreement to transfer the land for the project from the city to The Environmental Project.

The agreement would be contingent on project leaders meeting basic specifications including building a 4.5-acre enclosed rain forest, a 1 million gallon aquarium and an outdoor performance venue. It would also set a project timeline and fund-raising requirements, with all funds and contracts having to be in place six months after the land transfer.

Whether the council's growing impatience and skepticism is representative of the residents of Coralville residents is, of course, difficult to tell without some type of scientific polling. But we have little doubt that council members' actions are prudent.

Sure, the plans are impressive and the rain forest could be a one-of-a-kind project. Sure, the $180 million project has the potential to bring significant numbers of jobs and tourists to our area. Sure, project leaders already have about $90 million in funding, including $50 million in federal money in hand.

The issue on the table right now is the other $90 million.

For the city of Coralville, the issue is how long can it wait. The property Coralville is getting ready to transfer to the rain forest project is prime. The city can't afford to have the property sit unused for years. If rain forest project leaders can't come up with the money and can't meet the city's other requirements, we suggest the city is right to move forward to other projects for that land.