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The Iowa Rain Forest Environmental Project

Talk of Iowa

Guest: David Oman

Host: Dean Borg

Iowa Public Radio: WSUI-AM 910, WOI-AM 640

December 20, 2005, 10:00-11:00 a.m.

[Note: This material is copyright by Iowa Public Radio and WSUI-AM 910, 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 Iowa Public Radio.]


Dean Borg [DB] [Introduction]: During the next hour the executive director of the environmental project, David Oman, provides a status report of what is more commonly known as the Rain Forest.  In spite of various challenges and location changes during the past several years, The Environmental Project's board and staff insists the concept is alive and well and that several Iowa communities want the Rain Forest built in their towns. On the other hand, many people question the feasibility and wisdom of investing millions of dollars in the rain forest environmental project.  Financing is a major consideration and there is a $50 million federal appropriation for the project, but several million dollars must yet be raised.  We will ask David Oman for details on that, too.  And if you have comments or questions, we will take them when you call our toll free number.

[DB]:  Hello from Iowa City. Iím Dean Borg and Talk of Iowa continues now with some talk about what is called The Environmental Project.  We most often hear about it as the rain forest, but it may be a whole lot more than that.  We are going to be finding that out from the Executive Director of The Environmental Project, David Oman.  David is on the line from his office in Des Moines.  Good morning, David.

David Oman [DO]:  Good morning, Dean.  Nice to be with you again.

[DB]:  First of all, is it correct to call this endeavor a rain forest?  I raised the question in my introduction saying we know it is the rain forest.  But, the reason I ask that is, I went to the Web site in my research for this program, and one line there, along with a whole lot of other text, it says, ďthis is a number of natural environments, including an indoor rain forest.Ē

[DO]:  Well, first of all, I appreciate the opportunity to spend some time with your listeners and you in the run-up to the holidays.  The project is pretty well known, itís highly visible in the state. It is not particularly well understood.  So, any chance that we have to define the project for people is helpful.  The project is aimed at doing a number of things, and often gets short-handed to just being known as the rain forest.   Think of it in a larger context Ė almost as a museum of the environment, or a center on ecology that celebrates environmental issues and concerns.  There is a project somewhat similar to it over in England called the Eden project which perhaps we can talk about in a little bit.  We will have the insight of a reconstructed rain forest experience.  There are others like it around the United States, the closest one being the Doorly Zoo in Omaha Ė itís about 25 years old and one and a half acres.  This is aimed to being three to maybe up to four acres in size Ė hundreds of plant species, some animals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds.  It will have in that respect some element of a zoo.   It will also have a large aquarium, the largest aquarium by far in the state of Iowa, between 500,000 to probably up to 600,000 gallons.  It will have a lot of learning elements inside.  We can come back to that. Ted Stillwell , our director of learning, will be on the program here in a little while.  On the outside, and this doesnít get talked about a lot, and thatís unfortunate, because the outside experience, ala Eden again, will be every bit as interesting; this is something that has come from the community over in Iowa City, from Iowans as a whole, that we donít just celebrate the rain forest ecosystem, but we also celebrate our own indigenous ecosystem as well.  So, we hope to have a prairie experience, a natural recreated prairie, a wetland, crops, plants, flowers.  And again, this is something you see over at the Eden project in the U.K. where they have the large rain forest, humid tropics bio, a more arid experience, and then they have the plantings on the outside that are indigenous to the U.K.

[DB]:  I appreciate that overview.  In fact, in confirms an editorial, a line in the editorial in the Corridor Business Journal published yesterday.  I am going to refer back to the editorial as we go along in our conversation.  One line here says, ďthere is no question that the Rain Forest project is a bold idea and would make a nice compliment to the Marriott Hotel and Convention Center in whatís being developed in downtown CoralvilleĒ.  Weíll get back to that in just a moment, but I think that what you have just described provides more of a comprehensive picture than we have known or is euphemistically referred to as the rain forest. Now, David, whatís the status of The Environmental Project right now Ė first in design and concept, and we will get to location.

[DO]:  We will get to probably all those questions.  Before I dive right into that, I would just to amend what I was saying to you a moment ago.  We have a wonderful board of directors Ė two dozen educators, scientists, professional people, business people, former Supreme Court Justice, chairman of the public television board, past president of the Iowa Arts Council, etc.  The reason I mention that is that -- people from agriculture -- it isnít always that you see people from those different disciplines come around an idea and support an idea, albeit one that is bold and at times controversial.  The idea and the project inside and out is aimed at celebrating and honoring a couple of core Iowa values which are education and conservation, and all the work we are doing is about upholding those values and creating a place that Iowans can feel good about, but more importantly, that others from around the country can come to Iowa to see an experience.  We donít have a destination attraction here Ė a gateway arch, a space needle, a Sydney Opera House, if you will -- that brings a million people to our state.  We are fly-over country.  So, there is an economic lift that can be had if we plan it and design it well.  And to that question, this year we have retained the services of Kajima Urban Development, a Japanese-backed company from the West Coast as our project management firm.  They have done big projects all over the world, including one right now, an environmental facility that theyíre planning and managing in London.  In turn, with the help of Kajima, we have retained as our project architect, the Grimshaw firm, which has offices in London, New York and Melbourne.  They were the architects for the Eden project in the U.K.  We had developed our own working relationship with Eden.  Now that we have the same architect, obviously that relationship is enhanced.  We are going to be able to learn from what they did well or not well at Eden, but we are not creating Eden Roman Number II here in the U.S.  This will be a project that is distinctly ours.

[DB]:  How long has that Eden been in being?

[DO]:  Eden has a path very similar to ours Ė started in the mid-90s, up and down, looked like it wasnít going to happen a couple times, and finally opened in 2001.  It is in Cornwall, the tip that extends out to the Atlantic in the far West of the English Isles, about five hours from London.  You have to work a little bit to get there.  It is a beautiful surrounding area, but their tourism business really had flattened and it was the most depressed part of the U.K.  Eden has become a venue that draws one and a quarter million people every year, double their projections, and it has created what they call the Eden Effect, an economic lift.  Property values actually have increased by about a third.  In U.S. dollars, they believe they have created about close to a billion dollars in economic activity in the four and one half years they have been opened.  Our project -- you wanted to know about the design status, we are at the conceptual design status, where the architects are reviewing some of the parameters that the board has set forth, coming up with some very creative thinking.  We have a firm working on exhibitry, the same people who did the Americaís Rivers Project up in Dubuque, which is a splendid project in the state.  They are coming up with good work. And the next step that needs to fall into line, is location.  Our board of directors met a week ago today in the Amanas, and confirmed that we are going to look at a number of venues across Iowa that have been made known to us.  Coralville certainly is very much in play with their site right along I-80 and along the Iowa River.  There are some other ones as well.  The board will conduct a process to winnow those opportunities and hopefully pick one by the end of the first quarter of í06.

[DB]:  Let me interrupt, Dave, and let you know that we have some telephone calls.  David is calling from Cedar Rapids.  Now, these will be specific questions as we are dealing with the overview in the large context right now.  But, David has a specific question about how it is going to be heated, is that right David?

[David]:  That is correct.  And the reason I am concerned is because of natural gas prices that are going up.  Because of the fact that natural gas production has peaked, and if that thing sucks up more natural gas, it just goes to contribute to the raising of natural gas for people trying to heat their homes.  I was just wondering how this thing is going to be heated when it gets 20 below zero here in Iowa.

[DO]:  Fair question.  Thereís been a lot of interest on that topic, particular with the rates on the energy side going up.  We are working with the U.S. Department of Energy and with the U.S. Green Building Council based in Washington and the President of the U.S. Green Building Council serves on our board of directors.  This will be one of the largest green building constructed in the United States.  A highly energy efficient design, sustainable design, use of some materials that are used to building construction over in Europe, but not heavily used here.  And powered by an array of alternative and renewable energy sources, passive solar, ala what they do at the Eden project certainly comes to mind.  You can see some micro-turbines, possibly some fuel cells, there has been some discussion about a wind turbine as well.  And weíve got people on both coasts working on how we aggregate those energy sources.  We are not just going to plug it into the grid and burn natural gas.  This is a building meant to be an exemplar of energy conservation.  And I might just add, having just come from Eden, obviously with the rain forest ecosystem inside, there is a fair amount of heat generated and humidity.  The larger challenge probably will occur in the summer in terms of keeping it a cool and comfortable environment.

[DB]:  David, any further follow-up?

[David]:  Well that pretty well answers my question.  I get more concerned every time they mention building a new electrical generator system using natural gas.  It concerns me, because looking at how much percentage-wise our gas costs have gone up.  And I though, well, if they are going to build that thing down there, that is going to suck up more natural gas and our costs are going to go up even more.

[DB]:  You thought you may be paying for it indirectly.

[David]:  Yes.

[DO]:  The energy conservation is pegged at being about half of what a normal office building of that size would be.

[DB]:  Thank you, David, for the call.  David Oman, letís go back to -- you were talking about site.  You said that Coralville is still in the mix, if I remember what you were saying when David called.  Are other cities under consideration?

[DO]:  Yes, to both of those Ė to your statement and to your question.  Weíve had the project positioned in Coralville for some time, as you know.  Thereís been some issues with the city Ė and really issues both ways.  When you look at large projects, thatís not uncommon.  Look at the reconstruction of the World Trade Center site in New York and all of the issues that surround that project.  Coralville has done a magnificent job of planning and now constructing the new Marriott Hotel which the city actually is the developer on and the owner of.  They are going to do a convention center with that. It is really a very handsome development.  Our issues with the city have come mostly on financing and timing and whether the project will synchronize with what their timetable is.  We also have concerns about enough size and enough space to create on the outside the very experience that I talked about a few moments ago.  Coralville is working very hard to meet our needs.  There was discussion again, as recent as yesterday on that, and will be work going on through the holidays.  They are very much a very viable contender.  At the same time, the project has the ability to be sited anywhere in the state of Iowa.  Weíve heard from other communities and projects and institutions and developers, and some of those are public and some of those not quite ready to be public.  The communities that are in the public realm that some people probably have heard or read are Dubuque, Tiffin, thereís a site just west of I-80 and 380 that is a very interesting site, Riverside, just south of Iowa City about 15 minutes,

[DB]:  With a casino being built there.

[DO]:  Next door, thatís correct. Thereís a development there with a hotel and a golf course and a 45 acre lake and some other features.  Grinnell has expressed some interest and it has been reported there is interest on the part of the city of Des Moines.  And there are others that have reached out to us that are still contemplating.

[DB]:  Doesnít that slow things up now?  You were so far down the road with Coralville, and now you go back and possibly pick another site.  Does that delay things?

[DO]:  Well, according to our project management team, the short answer is "no."  We want to do this on a very fast track Ė meaning maybe 60 days.  We are not going to take a year or months to do that because that would absolutely slow the timetable.  The architects still have some work to do, but at some point towards the end of the first quarter they are going to be ready to design to a site to move from concept to schematic design, and the board owes them clarity on the site.

[DB]:  David, I have a call here, and she has been waiting a little bit, Susan in Iowa City.  And then we will go back to the other cities and the criteria that you are considering.  Susan?

[Susan]:  Good morning, and thank you for taking my call.  I admit, I have been one who has been quite skeptical of the project to date.  Partly, because it seems like it doesnít have that much relevance to taking advantage of what Iowa has to offer to people, coming from various reasons.  So I am wondering if it is too late in the design phase to include a George Washington Carver wing.

[DO]:  Thank you for your question and for the suggestion.  It is not too late in the design stage to do a number of things Ė to celebrate Iowaís role environmentally and agriculturally and there have been a number of discussions of people in Iowa and others who are very interested in what we can do with a facility that a million people are visiting.  Obviously youíve got some of the core exhibits, you have galleries, you have lots of learning opportunities.  We have discussed, for instance, two leading Iowans, each in their own way did remarkable work in helping people around the world deal with hunger and starvation.  That would be Herbert Hoover and Henry Wallace.   Norman Borlock, our chairman, Governor Ray, has talked about the ability, the opportunity to honor Dr. Borlock, so that the world, the visitors come from all over understand that part of the stateís legacy.  George Washington Carver would be a natural addition to that.

[DB]:  David, letís go back to consideration of the site.  This editorial in the Corridor Business Journal that serves the Cedar Rapids, Iowa City area.  In there, one of the paragraphs says, ďas Josh Shamburger, president of the Iowa City -- Coralville Convention and Visitorís Bureau said recently, the rain forest leadership speaks regularly about the next phase, but to date there are no defined goals or strategies, no blue prints and nothing more substantive than weíve seen in a really good Powerpoint presentation and a visioning brochure.Ē  And then another line says, ďWhich city in Iowa wants to get stuck with an ill-conceived money pit?Ē What would be the obligation of the host city in fundraising? And this "money pit" allegation is not defined, but what might be referred to there? What is the obligation of the host city?

[DO]:  Well, I think any host city, Coralville, or any of the others we have talked about, there would be some obligation.  There would also be opportunity, Dean.

[DB]:  Is it publicly or privately owned?

[DO]:  The project is structured as a not-for-profit, as a 501(c)3, governed by the two dozen people on the board that I mentioned earlier.  There has been a lot of conjecture that this is some private investment and someone is going to make something out of it. The project will run in the black and the net income will be used to continue to grow the project, do additional marketing, and plan for an expansion down the road.  Most projects, people who run them globally, will tell you that you canít be static, youíve got to always be planning something.  So, in the decade of the teens, just as they are doing at the Eden project now, contemplating their next phase, we would want to do something as well.  To your point as to what could a community do and how could a community benefit, to put the capital budget together would require some investment on the part of the community and the region that would host the project.  In turn, over time, the net economic impact is quite large.  I mentioned the Eden example earlier.  You look at any large project in the community.  Look at the project up in Dubuque, the Rivers Project there has been a huge asset to that community.  Our numbers mapped by a firm, called ??Consult-Econ?? out of Cambridge suggest that on an annual basis, the economic impact of large destination attraction to a region would be in the realm of $150 to $160 million dollars.

[DB]:  David, Iím going to interrupt you right there and we may come back to that, but Sandy is calling from Des Moines and I need to get her in before we break.

[Sandy]:  Good morning.  This is an interesting conversation and there is one thing that has been kind of bothering me about the whole Rain Forest concept and that is, we have, and I am referring to the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge which is a recreation of the prairie that Iowa is so connected, to Iowaís history and to what Iowa is, and so it bothers me that funding has been cut to that area.  And I also have another comment, if I could make it before he answers that, and that is what marketing effort is being developed for this project, you know the lovely saying ďbuild it and they will comeĒ is not necessarily true.  How are these millions of people going to find about this?  Thank you very much.

[DB]:  Thank you Sandy.

  BREAK

[DB]:  We are talking with David Oman, the executive director of The Environmental Project.  When we broke for that market information, Sandy in Des Moines has just asked how the marketing will be done and also she was concerned the fund cuts to the Neal Smith Prairie Reserve and whether or not there is stability in funding for this concept of an environmental project.

[DO]:  Both good questions, I am a big fan of the Neal Smith Prairie.  The other people have been there.  We have learned from what they have done.  Thatís about a 5,000 acre prairie south of I-80, southeast of Des Moines, west of the Pella area.  They do a marvelous job.  And we would hope to have perhaps some linkages with them.  Our site will not be nearly as large, and we hope we can create the destination and attraction thatís mapped, bringing people to Iowa. Not only would they come to The Environmental Project and see what we have to share, but they can also learn about the Dubuque project, the Riversís project up there, do Neal Smith, or visit the Science Center in Des Moines, the Loess Hills out in western Iowa, the lakes in northwest Iowa.  Thereís been some discussion about one plus one plus one plus one equals more, and the ability to do some ecotourism, if you will, here in the Midwest, to celebrate again the concern that we all have with conservation.  Neal Smith is good, and we would be not a competitor, but we would hope to be complementary to them.  Our whole business plan is built around this being a sustaining project, as the Eden project is over in the U.K., not requiring ongoing subsidies, and part of the way you do that is to create a project that people do want to come to see and you also do it by marketing well.  Again, there are good examples of that all around.  Weíve got monies in our budget, once opened, to market, and to use the Internet, and to let people know whatís here.

[DB]:  Dave, thereís a raft of telephone calls lining up here and I need to get to those.  But there is one that has come also questioning your personal involvement and leadership here.  There has been some question about your own personal leadership and your commitment to stay with the project.  How do you answer those critics?  What you have been doing, they said to put it in a point, over the past three years personally to provide and to move this thing along?

[DO]:  Well, Dean, I wish I had a lot of time. I will try to condense my answer to that question.  We have put in play a number of fronts, the design element that we have already talked about, the project management element with KUD, we are working almost around the clock on the finance front with people in corporate America, institutions, foundations, individuals, on both coasts, some globally.  Weíve put together a science team, the learning elements which Ted Stillwellís is preparing to come out here to talk to you about.  And as we discussed in the first half hour, clarity on sight.  Those are all elements that need to create a confluence to create a world class project.  Thereís no script for this, let me tell you.  And itís been a challenge, no question.  We have people on the east coast and west coast very excited, so the hardest place to generate understanding of doing something world-class is here in Iowa, because weíre sometimes a little too modest.

[DB]:   Iím going to interrupt, Dave, and bring on Joan from Cedar Rapids.  Joan?

[Joan]:  Oh, David, I am so excited.  This is the culture that is backing you.  I am in Cedar Rapids.  And we have the money.  A few yards from me I have prairie woods; prairie woods, you know prairie lands, and you know, various things concerning solar panels, straw-bale houses, and so forth.  And there is a nursing home right here thatís doing an Eden project type thing Ė assisted living and independent living and they are doing it in the same style right around the corner from me.  I mean the people in the Cedar Rapids area, we have so many talented people, architects, music and culture, money, they are just busting to get involved with this.  So Coralville would not have to carry the load.

[DO]:  Joan, you said in a couple of sentences what it took me many sentences in the first half hour to try and talk about.  If people would visit the Eden project Web site, www.edenproject.com, or our project, www.theenvironmentalproject.com, people would get a better sense of what the project is. Itís much more holistic, much more exciting, and there is a major arts element to it and I appreciate you mentioning that.

[Joan]:  I am so excited about this.  You know, we could lose this.  It could jump over and it would be a shame because it is so easy.  I would be glad off the air if you want to speak to me, I would be glad to help.

[DO]:  Well, give our office a call.

[Joan]:  I will give you my phone number.  OK, I will take you around Cedar Rapids, and show you what we have right here, and show you where the money is, where the culture, where the architects are.  I would be glad to do it.  Anyway, I will give you my phone number off the air Ė very serious.

[DO]:  Just give us a call.  Dean, I will just tell you that we have ten communities around the state eager to host the project, people who have vision, people who have excitement, people who want to create never before done, not only in Iowa, but really not in the country.  There is only one like it in the world and thatís Eden, and we have discussed it.

[Joan]:  I am familiar with that.  Look at North Liberty, in a year or so, what they have done.

[DO]:  Okay, thank you maíam.

[DB]:  I think sheís gone.  Letís go on to Jim in Iowa City.

[Jim]:  Mr. Oman, I have lived in England and I know that the population density in England is much greater than it is in the Midwest, and also the climate is much milder.  One of the concerns that I have had about the project are what the operating costs are, and I am sure you know what the operating costs are at Eden.  Could you tell us what your calculations are for the operating costs here as compared to Eden?

[DO]:  They are fairly similar, sir.  The projects really have a lot of similarities, not just in content or in location, and Cornwall, as you know from having lived there, is a more rural part of the U.K.  Iowa is certainly more distant from the larger urban centers of our country, but we benefit from having Interstate 80 and a lot of through put.

[DB]:  Can you be specific, Dave, in what would be the annual operating costs?

[DO]:  Yeah, I was going to get to that, Dean.  The operating cost for our project is in the range of $14 million, somewhat slightly over that, depending on peak years or non-peak years.  Usually when you open a project, you get the larger attendance in the early years.

[DB]:  Fourteen million dollars annually?

[DO]:  Yes, and then thatís on the operating side.  The operating cost for our project is in the range of $14 millionOn the expense side, on the revenue side, we are looking at approximately $16 million.  And so, it runs in the black.  It needs to run in the black, for sure.  Itís been mapped thoroughly and that work will continue with the help of our project management firm and as we get more specificity on design, content, exhibitry, and the ability to tailor certain elements of the project for audiences, we can put even more definition to it.

[DB]:  Jim, I am going to move on now to Bob.  Thank you for that question on budget.

[DO]:  Dean, Iíve got to ask you, Iíve got Ted Stillwell standing by to talk about the learning elements.

[DB]:  And thatís why I am trying to move quickly here.  The phones are just overwhelmed here.  Bob in Independence, we will take your call and then we will switch to Ted Stillwell.  Go ahead, Bob.

[Bob]:  Thank you.  I have practically the same question as the fellow you just talked to.  What is it going to cost to maintain heat and cool this massive structure in the hot Iowa summers and cold winters?

[DB]:  Can we say that your question has been answered then?

[Bob]:  No, not at all.  What do you figure charging people to come and see this, per head?

[DO]:  Good question.  We are working on that.  The estimated adult ticket charge will probably be well below what people will pay, for instance, in a Chicago market to see some of the exhibits there.

[Bob]:  Letís get specific here.

[DO]:  We are in the range of about $15 to $17 for an adult ticket, when you then factor in seniors, discounts, groups, children, students, all of that, the average ticket would be in the realm of about 9 to 10 dollars.  It would be about a 2 ½  to 3 hour visitor experience.

[DB]:  Thanks, Bob, for the question and the specifics on that.  Jim is holding with a call here in Iowa City, but Ted Stillwell is standing by, is that right?

[DO]:  He is, Dean.  I am going to shift you to him right now.  Ted, as you know, is the former director of education for the State of Iowa under Governor Branstad and more recently, Governor Vilsak.  He is on our team and has done a remarkable job working with K-12 and people in higher education, public and private, in-state and out, to put a better definition to the learning element of the project.  Now I am going to put Ted on right now, with your permission.  Okay, thank you.  Good to visit with you again, Dean.

[DB]:  Thank you.  Ted?  Weíve had Jim holding in Iowa City and he wants to talk about the comparison with Eden and plant hardiness and we will get to that call in just a second.  Ted, are you on line?

[TS]:  Yes, sir.

[DB]:  Okay, can we take the call first of all?  Jim has been holding and I need to get to that, and David said you are just as well versed on this as he is, so we will take the call from Jim.

[TS]:  There is probably some question about that, but I will be happy to go ahead.

[Jim]:  Good morning.  I just happened to Google a plant zone map in the U.K.,  and they give the tip of Cornwall as totally unique compared to the entire island over there.  Itís like 30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, above, using the same criteria and switching to the USDA map, and there the criteria they are using on their map, and Iowa, throughout the entire state, it ranges from minus 15 to minus 25.  Now that is the winter ambient extreme on the down side,

[DB]:  Is your question, Jim, that the climate is not the same?

[Jim]:  Yes, comparing it to the Eden project.

[DB]:  Letís take the answer then. Ted?

[TS]:  Well, the caller is correct.  The climate in both locations is very different.  But, nevertheless, they are both indoor rain forests, having to recreate a tropical climate inside. The energy challenges are undoubtedly very different than they are in Cornwall, and thatís in fact it is a Department of Energy grant, to allow us to demonstrate cutting edge approaches to energy and energy use and energy conversation.  We have a very strong component on our design team that have done a lot of work with energy and modeling.

[DB]:  Ted, are you saying that even though the climates differ that what is being built here isnít going to be identical to whatís in the United Kingdom with Eden, that it will be climate adaptable?

[TS]:  Well, because you are creating an interior environment that is totally different than either Iowa or the U.K., in the sense the ability to grow the plants and trees and so on, some of the same challenges exist.  The energy demands will be greater in Iowa, but when we had a group over visiting Cornwall a few weeks ago, it snowed at least a few inches over there.  People from Iowa, I guess, felt at home.  We will have to deal with snow loads here as well as energy concerns, and all of that has to be part of our engineering, both from a structural standpoint and an energy standpoint and we are fully prepared to deal with that.

[DB]:  Thanks, Jim for the call.  Mary is on the line. Mary, go ahead with your question.

[Mary]:  My question is, is the resistance to the rain forest because the people feel that there is no future?  Are we depressed?

[DB]:  Did you get the question and understand that, Ted?

[TS]:  I got the question and I am not sure I am required to, or qualified to, answer the psychology of the opposition or the concern.  But, I will say that honestly I think sometimes, I mean Iíve grown up in Iowa and I love this state, but sometimes we are a little resistant to things that are outside of our normal experience, the things that we haven't seen before.  The good news about that is that we donít jump on a lot of band wagons, we let some of the things emerge on either coast, or in California, or in Florida, and then we take our time and learn from sometimes the initial mistakes that they made.  But, I think that we need to do some things to bring some excitement and bring some interest and frankly, to take some risks in this state.

[DB]:  I wanted to ask Ted, what is the connection planned of The Environmental Project to the schools?  Now, when you are looking at all the possible different locations, I know that you probably have something set up if it were going to be built in Coralville with the University of Iowa and schools in this area.  Now, if you are thinking about Dubuque, maybe Des Moines, Grinnell, Dave listed several others Ė whatís the education linkage here?

[TS]:  There are two perspectives to take a look at, Dean.  The first is the educational component of the visitor experience.  We hope that our mission statement is inspiring generations to learn from the natural world  We hope everyone who walks in our doors has a piece of that inspiration and that it inspires them to learn more about nature, to learn more about science and that would be true for adult visitors, youth visitors, student visitors as well.  And that would be the case regardless of location, depending on a mix of components.  That might vary a little bit by location.  But thatís one thing that has intrigued this international design team.  They are used to dealing with zoos and aquariums, and other rain forest attractions but theyíve never found one that is as dedicated to learning and as dedicated to science, so thatís a component that we call the visitor experience as well.

[DB]:  Let me ask you.  You directed the entire K-12 public system in Iowa and you have a great deal of experience and talent in that regard.  How are you applying that to this environmental project?  Before you answer that, I want to give the telephone number to those who want join the conversation.  Go ahead, Ted.

[TS]:  Well, Dean, in addition to the visitor experience, we are planning what people would most likely think of as field trip experiences for schools and that would emphasize environmental and energy science, but also inquiry-based science approaches consistent with the National Science Standards.  We are also planning to have a very strong outreach component to science education generally.  We would like to be first a state, and then hopefully a national, center for professional development for science teachers.  We would like to support a better and more effective preparation of science teachers.  Thatís a huge shortage area for the state and it is going to be a growing shortage area even as school districts increase their requirements.  We want to be national advocates for science literacy.  All of that is possible from this base.  And thatís the part that might look most different depending on the location, and as you mentioned, sort of the surrounding of education assets in terms of higher education and area education agencies, school districts and private colleges.

[DB]:  A little bit ago, Sandy had called from Des Moines, and she was talking about how this is being marketed, at least, I think she was talking about how is it going to be marketed in the future.  How do you do that marketing to schools in an educational component?

[TS]:  We plan to be as supportive of science education in schools as we possibly can be.  We will have our staff working with science teachers, if kids are coming here on a field trip, for example, we would be working with their teachers ahead of time to help structure that experience.  Maybe even using the ICN and the Internet to co-teach lessons in classrooms before kids come to the site, and they will have a great experience when they come, kind of lab experience, and then we will follow-up as they go back.  But if we are also integrated into the stateís efforts, as we have been involved in to some extent already, to improve science education and science literacy, we will hopefully be a very strong partner and a very strong ally and advocate in science education.

[DB]:  Joe from Humboldt is on the line.  Joe?

[Joe]:  I think this is a great project, in a way, but I donít like the fact that the people who are supportive of the project Ė every time somebody criticizes them, they say, Iowans lack vision, we are these bumpkins from the Midwest.  You just got to out to the coast and see what they are doing in England and everything.  I mean, what does a rain forest have to do with Iowa?  I think the project is not being sold properly.  If this is an environmental project, why canít we incorporate some of the things that are typical of Iowa?  We look at the rain forest, everybody is so worried about the rain forest, well, we live in a state with the least virgin land left in the entire United States and we are not talking about that.  We are not doing anything locally.  I mean it is like we are thinking locally and acting globally, weíve got the whole thing backwards. Is there going to be a local component to this?

[DB]:  Joe, let me ask a question.  Did you hear the beginning of the program when I asked about that same question,"We know this is the rain forest, but it seems on your Web site, there is so much more."  Did you hear David Omanís answer to that?

[Joe]:   No, I am sorry.

[DB]:  Thatís fine.  Letís let Ted go back and answer your question then.

[TS]:   I am going to give you an answer that may differ or complement Davidís answer, because I think I know in terms of talking about the total assets that it certainly is not just a rain forest.  From an educational standpoint, frankly, having a different environment to study is sort of like, for those of us who have ever studied foreign language, sometimes when you study a foreign language, the structure of your native language becomes clear.  The fact that this is different, is actually a great way to teach environmental concepts and scientific concepts.  Things happen from a natural standpoint, the natural cycles that are there, is a rain forest with transpiration or the water moving up through the soil to the plants and out the leaves.  The oxygen cycle, the carbon cycle, the same things you see in a prairie in Iowa are happening on a continuous basis and you can also visit them in all seasons of the year in a more comfortable environment.

[DB]:  Just as we conclude, Mr. Stillwell, what is your personal commitment and plan with the environmental project?  Are you going to stick with it, or are you just there while it is being planned and during the building?

[TS]:  Dean, thatís a great question.  I signed on initially to really help with the education components that Iíve talked about.  Iíve gotten involved with the architects and the design team and as we move into the site selection process, that actually delays things a little bit, slows down, perhaps, the opening of the educational assets.  So, I may not be as involved for a period of time here, but I am very hopeful and optimistic that we will be able to come back, and in a couple years prior opening to come on with full force.

[DB]:  Thank you, Ted.  Our thanks to David Oman and Ted Stillwell for spending the past hour with us answering questions about the environmental project.