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Cities Hope To Land Rainforest Project
Site Could Be Named By March

KCCI-TV8, Des Moines

February 2, 2006

[Note: There are two versions of this piece. Both are included below. The first is a transcript of the on-air video. The second is the printed story from the station's Web site.]

[Note: This material, originally at http://www.kcci.com/news/6689753/detail.html, 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.]



Stacey Horst [anchor]: A lot of money, a lot of interest, in the proposed Iowa rain forest.

Kevin Cooney [KC; anchor]: Michelle Parker's live with our top story. Six communities now want this $100 million-plus project, Michelle?

Michelle Parker [MP]: That is correct. Now we are here at the Botanical Center.  And imagine something that is 10 times the size of this botanical center. That could be the rain forest.  Now leaders of what is called the Environmental Project, at a cost of $155 million, say they are working on new drawings for it and a site could be named by March.

As Maureen Bialzak strolls through the Blank Park Zoo with her son, she tries to imagine what it would be like to have a rainforest here.

Maureen Bialzak:  I think it sounds very unique.

MP: Thatís one proposal being considered as Des Moines leaders compete for the Environmental Project.

Chris Hensley [Des Moines City Council]: It would be one of a kind in the United States.  It would be one of a kind of a very few throughout the world.

MP: The Environmental Project would include a re-created tropical rainforest, a million gallon aquarium and a learning center.  Also prairie grass, wetlands and outdoor trails.

David Oman [DO]: We are working with companies around the country and around the world on content and financing.

MP: David Oman says this project is based on the Eden project that was built in Cornwall, England.  He predicts the success there will be the same in Iowa and could attract a million visitors each year.

DO: Itís unique, itís designed to celebrate learning and conservation and to be an attraction that brings people and revenue and income.

MP: But critics, like University of Iowa Law Professor Nicholas Johnson, says there havenít been enough details released about the Environmental Project.  He points to the difficulty in raising private funds and worries about its operational costs.

Nicholas Johnson: Suppose this thing does not support itself?  Are we going to subsidize it forever with taxpayers' money?

DO: There are people, individuals, foundations and corporations that care a lot about the environment that are talking with us.

MP: Des Moines is just one of the communities that is vying for this rainforest project.  Just last week we learned developers would like the rainforest to be at Lake Redrock near Pella to go along with a new development project there.  There are other places that are also vying for it, Dubuque, Grinnell, Tiffin and Riverside.  Now, Oman says they are looking for a place that has the right topography, perhaps a body of water nearby, and also a nearby highway that gives easy access to the location.

KC: All right Michelle, did you get a feeling for the status of the funding right now?

MP: They say they remain optimistic, according to David Oman.  They do have a $48 million federal grant. They are working on the private money and corporate money.

KC: All right, Michelle Parker, thank you very much.



DES MOINES, Iowa -- Six Iowa communities are bidding for a multimillion-dollar rainforest project.

Leaders of the Environmental Project said they are working on new drawings for the project and a site could be named by March.

Maureen Bialzak was at the Blank Park Zoo with her son Thursday said she likes the possibility of a rainforest in the metro.

"I think it would be good for the area," Bialzak said.

Des Moines is one location being considered for the Environmental Project.

Chris Hensley, a Des Moines council member, said it would be a unique attraction in the U.S. and one of the few in the world.

The Environmental Project would include an indoor rainforest, a million-gallon aquarium, a learning center and wetlands.

"We're working with companies around the world on content and financing," said David Oman, of the Environmental Project.

Oman said the project is based on the Eden Project that was built in Cornwall, England. He predicted that Iowa would have the same success as England has had, attracting 1 million visitors each year.

Critics such as University of Iowa law professor Nicholas Johnson said there haven't been enough details released about the rainforest plan.

Critics point to the difficulty in raising private funds and worry about its operational costs.

"Suppose this doesn't support itself. Will we subsidize it with taxpayers' money?" Johnson said.

Oman said they are looking for the right topography.

"There are people Ö that care a lot about the environment that are talking with us," Oman said.

This week, developers of a resort plan at Lake Red Rock near Pella announced they would like to have the rainforest there. Other cities bidding for the project include Dubuque, Grinnell, Tiffin and Riverside.

There is a $48 million federal grant slated for the rainforest, and project planners are continuing to seek private and corporate funding.