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Rain Forest Timeline Addressed

Lyle Muller and Tom Owen

The Gazette

April 12, 2005

[Note: This material is copyright by The Gazette, 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 Gazette.]

    CORALVILLE — City officials have met several times in recent weeks to pin Environmental Project leaders to a timetable for the ambitious $180 million rain forest project.

    Calls for a timetable and better progress were part of an April 5 Environmental Project board meeting and other discussions with individuals, interviews showed.

    Asked if local leaders were satisfied with what they’ve learned, Coralville City Administrator Kelly Hayworth said, ‘‘I think we’re headed in that direction.’’

    Coralville remains committed to working with the 4.5-acre Environmental Project proposed south of Interstate 80 between the Iowa River and First Avenue, Hayworth and other city officials said.

    But some want a visible show of progress because the city is to break ground May 5 on a nearby hotel and conference center. That city-run center and the privately run rain forest are to anchor Coralville’s 180-acre brownfield restoration effort, called the Iowa River Landing District.

    The City Council is to vote at 7 tonight on contracts to build the $53.87 million, 286-bed center. The vote will proceed even though the city dumped Marriott last week as the hotel’s operator over concerns it would not complete tasks in time.

    Environmental Project officials say efforts remain under way to find money for the project. About $90 million has been raised, $50 million of it from a federal grant. Board chairman and former Gov. Robert Ray said the project’s executive director, David Oman, should not be criticized for the pace.

    ‘‘To build something like this from scratch takes a lot of contacts and a lot of promoting, and he’s been working night and day,’’ Ray said. ‘‘It’s awful easy for people who have not been participating to have their own opinions about it.’’