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Rain Forest: Riverside Won't Offer Funds Now

Mary Zielinksi

The Gazette

January 20, 2006

[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.]

    RIVERSIDE — City Council members say they are not opposed to The Environmental Project indoor rain forest planting roots in town, but they don’t want to promise funding for it.

    They passed a resolution Monday night expressing Riverside’s interest in the project and possibly working as a co-sponsor for funding.

    ‘‘There is nothing wrong in expressing interest,’’ Council member Todd Yahnke said. ‘‘We don’t want to commit any amount of money to it.’’

    Ed Raber, executive director of the Washington Economic Development Group, told the council that rain forest officials are re-evaluating possible sites for the estimated $180 million project.

    Rain forest backers and Coralville had differences of opinion on locating the tourist attraction in Coralville.

    A key factor in project financing is a possible $20 million Vision Iowa grant that Raber said has to be co-sponsored by a city and county. The co-sponsor has to put some money into the pot, he said. Raber said no one knows how much would be required from Riverside.

    Rain forest backers want bidding communities to provide at least $25 million and 25 acres of land, according to application materials distributed to communities expressing interest in the project. The Gazette obtained a copy.

    Raber said interested communities must send an application by Jan. 31 that says they would explore co-sponsoring the rain forest.

    The Washington County Board of Supervisors is to discuss the matter Tuesday, Raber said.

    Coralville remains a possible site for the rain forest, and project officials are in discussions with Des Moines, Grinnell and Tiffin, too. Dubuque pulled out of the running last week. The site selection is expected in March.

    Gazette staff writer Zack Kucharski contributed to this report.