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Environmental Project, Coralville Split

Steve Nicoles


December 9, 2005

[Note: This material is copyright by KCRG-TV9, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval http://www.kwwl.comof KCRG-TV9.]

(Coralville KCRG) -- The future of the rain forest in Coralville is in serious doubt. The proposed site is just east of Interstate 380 and south of Interstate 80, but many other demands set by the environmental project are not. And neither side seems willing to budge.

A lot has changed in the six years since a Des Moines businessman first dreamed up a tropical rain forest in Iowa. First project leaders went in search of a home. Now, communities are clamoring for the rain forest. However, Coralville is no longer one of those towns.

The odds a rain forest will call Coralville home: unlikely. So says city council member John Lundell. He said, "We have chose than it would be in the best interest of Coralville to start to look at alternative uses for that property."

The decision came during a highly anticipated, closed-door meeting with city officials and Environmental Project leaders. Head of the Environmental Project, Dave Oman, said, "We did not get to an agreement with Coralville."

According to Lundell, Coralville cannot meet demands quickly enough for the rain forest group. And he says a lack of progress concerns the city. Lundell said, "There seems to be a lack of skills on their part to move forward."

Oman admits there is a need to move quickly. He said, "We have waited a long time and we have a project timetable that needs to be met."

He says other communities that have made offers have more in place than Coralville, however, Coralville is still an option.

But with both sides missing deadlines set by the other party, they decided to part ways. Lundell said, "They indicated today they're interested in moving forward and speaking with other communities.

Now the rain forest group and Coralville will start looking at other options. Lundell says the city council will likely discuss new options for the rain forest site at their next meeting, which is Tuesday.

The city could start a program similar to Cedar Rapids' "15 in 5" project by having people submit ideas for the site and the city choosing among them.

If the rain forest indeed leaves Coralville, the city would lose a project expected to bring in more than a million people a year.

The entire project was supposed to include a five acre rain forest, an I-MAX theatre, an aquarium and science center. It was supposed to open in 2009.