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Rain Forest at Red Rock?

Steve Woodhouse
[Knoxville (Iowa) Journal Express; CNHI News Service]

Corsicanna (Texas) Daily Sun

March 15, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by CNHI News Service, the Corsicanna (Texas) Daily Sun (and perhaps the Knoxville (Iowa) Journal Express), 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 copyright owners.]

KNOXVILLE, Iowa— The Iowa Environmental Project has narrowed its list to a few potential sites, including Lake Red Rock.
Representatives of The Point at Lake Red Rock, a development planned for the lake, discussed the project in Knoxville recently. They had previously given their presentation to Pella and received Pella’s blessing.

The Iowa Environmental Project is a $155 million rain forest venture funded by the Department of Energy. Developer Mark Bockenstedt said project organizers are looking for a starting commitment figure of $25 million from the chosen area to be invested in the project. Bockenstedt said the figure would not include roads or other infrastructure or parking. Wherever the project goes, it is expected to generate $140 million in economic activity per year.

Project spokesman David Oman said the project is looking for more of a partnership with the chosen community. Therefore, the amount of private funds a community is willing to invest will have a bearing on the final decision.

Oman said the project is envisioned to be a destination attraction, which could bring the money and notoriety the Space Needle brings to Seattle, Wash., and The Arch brings to St. Louis, Mo.

Bockenstedt, who owns a marina at Lake Red Rock, and his partner, Kevin Conway, are making the case to get the project that Marion County is a destination location. Marion County has topped the state in tourism for years now, thanks to such attractions as the Knoxville Raceway and Pella Tulip Time, as well as the lake. Bockenstedt and Conway also emphasized Marion County’s proximity to Des Moines, which already has a strong tourist base, and Newton, which hopes to draw tourists with the Iowa Speedway.

The project was scheduled to be built in Coralville. Oman said a lot of work was done at that location. Late last year, Sen. Chuck Grassley created the opportunity for the project to explore other areas. The selection process began in January.

The Point is scheduled to be built whether or not the environmental project is awarded to the lake. It will be located between Bos Landen and the lake itself.

Developers say they found a piece of property adjacent to land owned by the Army Corps of Engineers. They plan to build time-share condominiums and a high-rise, 180-room hotel. If the environmental project is awarded elsewhere, the condos will be the first phase of The Point that will be completed. Each condo is a two-year project and developers say 60 people have already asked to reserve their share.

The Corps will make a decision about whether to allow proposed marina development.

Developers envision many possibilities for the lake and the rain forest, if it is built in Marion County. However, they say that there is no chance of a casino being built in the area.

“That’s all Iowa is doing right now ... building casinos,” Conway said.

The developers are currently working on ideas to maximize space for the potential rain forest. They are also working on alternative energy sources and ways the rain forest could save money by coming to Lake Red Rock.

Other communities in the running for the project are Coralville, Des Moines, Dubuque, Grinnell, Riverside and Tiffin.
Steve Woodhouse writes for Knoxville (Iowa) Journal Express.