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Rain Forest to Ask for State Money

Jeffrey Patch

Des Moines Register

April 20, 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.]

Developers of a $180 million indoor rain forest project in Coralville plan to seek $20 million from Vision Iowa.

The decision to ask for state money is the first announcement in more than a year indicating how the Environmental Project's board of directors plans to raise the remaining money needed for the project, which would include a 4.5-acre indoor rain forest, a 1.2 million-gallon aquarium and a theater.

Project planners secured a $50 million federal energy grant in January 2004 and have raised a total of $95 million.

Nancy Quellhorst, director of operations for the Environmental Project, said Wednesday the group's draft Vision Iowa request, dated April 5, seeks $20 million over five years. She said the group did not know how Vision Iowa would distribute the money, but it could be $4 million a year.

The Environmental Project must submit its request by July 1.

Meanwhile, the project's director of learning, Ted Stilwill, described the project's educational plan to University of Iowa graduate students Wednesday.

Stilwill said the project will fill a void in training science teachers to compete in the global economy.

"I've watched teachers try really hard, but they didn't have the tools to be effective," said Stilwill, a former director of the Iowa Department of Education and teacher. "We can't afford to let teachers struggle. In today's world, we need a society that is much more literate in science."