Mayor’s Committee Discusses Potential Spoil Site Development

(story by Dana Larsen)

The Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Parks, Trails and Urban Forestry met this week, discussing plans to develop a nature park on the former spoil site land, and other Storm Lake efforts.

The spoil site, about 200 acres east of Sunrise Pointe Golf Course, includes grassland, a wooded area, a lagoon and a marsh area. A consulting engineer for the City earlier created a concept for development of the site that would retain its natural elements. The plan shows hiking and mountain biking trails, a large passive recreation park, a dog park, natural play areas, an outdoor classroom space, and an option to create sports fields on the flat lower portion of the property that could hold a combination of soccer and pickleball/tennis courts.

A first phase for the plan would likely be to create the trails and a fenced dog park. Trail development is expected to cost roughly $350,000. The City is proposing to budget for a piece of equipment that could form concrete or crushed rock trail so such work can be done without hiring an outside contractor. The City has sought to find a site for a dog park for several years. An earlier plan ended when land that was to be donated became unavailable. The City hopes to revive a dog park committee now that the spoil site opportunity is moving forward.

Mayor Mike Porsch told the committee that the plan is just one concept, and urged the group to add its own ideas for the site to the discussion.

Committee members forwarded several suggestions, including an observation tower and birdwatching area, reintroducing native prairie plants and wildflowers, developing informative kiosks along the trails that could share environmental or Iowa history information, a small shelter for the dog park in a future phase, and a “donor wall” type marker or recognition on the kiosks to encourage contributions to help fund some of the future elements of the park.

Mayor Porsch agreed that the development should not be entirely City-funded, and that grants and donations will likely be needed to complete phases of the development. He said that input from the public will also be valued. “We want to reach as many people as we can [with this discussion]. We need to have community buy-in.”

One unsolved challenge remains how to access the site, particularly for pedestrians and bike riders who would have to cross busy roads, the mayor admits. There is the possibility of extending trail along the cemetery eventually, or through the ditch on the edge of the golf course to get close to the site, but traffic remains an issue.

Committee members reflected that the layout of trails winding over the land will be important to make the most of the impressive natural features of the site.

The timing is right to begin moving the project forward, and Mayor Porsch said that the prospect for seeing the development through was one reason he chose to run for another term in office. Once the project is started, he feels that excitement will build up in the community.

City officials also discussed plans for a volunteerism program in the City, and the possibility of encouraging donors to help provide some new amenities for the parks. The mayor asked committee members to walk through the parks system and share ideas on what they feel could be added. “Imagination is the only limit,” he said.

The Storm Lake Proud park cleanup effort is expected to resume this spring as well. The mayor told the committee that he hopes to expand the effort this year to more than one day, and involve as many people and groups as possible.

The committee noted that with RAGBRAI attracting thousands of visitors this summer, it will be important to have the community looking its best, especially along the entry point where a first impression will be made.

This was the first meeting of the committee in some time and there are several new members, but with a busy summer of events and projects in the planning stages, Porsch said he hopes to gather the group every other month moving forward.