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Rainforest Could Head to DM
Rainforest Project Organizers Explore New Sites;
Des Moines, Dubuque Are Possibilities

KCCI-TV8, Des Moines

December 9, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by KCCI-TV8, 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 KCCI-TV8.]

DES MOINES, Iowa -- A multimillion-dollar rainforest could be coming to Des Moines.

Backers of the rainforest project say Des Moines' status as the state's largest city and as Iowa's economic and governmental hub makes it an attractive location.

Supporters said the Environmental Project would be unlike anything this nation has seen.

"This is a project unique to the country. It will bring a million people to the community," said Dave Oman, of the Environmental Project. "We have to put it on the right site with the right city partner."

Now that the partner may not be Coralville and the project is looking at other locations; Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie would like to learn more about it.

"We need to know how much ground we're talking about; what infrastructure needs to be added. Is there a revenue stream or does it need a lot of support?" Cownie said.

The Environmental Project would include a rainforest, a million gallon aquarium and a learning center.

There's been talk about moving the Blank Park Zoo to be with the rainforest project. That location could be across the river from the Principal Park baseball stadium.

"If that means moving to make it a better attraction and makes it better for the city and the state, we're absolutely willing to take a look at that," said Terry Rich, of Blank Park Zoo.

"It's also assured behind the scenes they're running the numbers to make sure it's fiscally responsible," Rich said.

The Environmental Project still must come up with matching funds for a $50 million federal grant.

"There's a lot of economic lift -- that's measured at $150 million a year. So any community that makes that investment and will work with us will do very well in the long term," Oman said.

Dubuque is another city that has expressed an interest in the rainforest.

Do leaders think they'll have better luck finding private donations by going to a new location?

Oman said support is out there. They have been talking to groups out of state and at least one out of the country.