Iowa City residents watch their children as the play on Iowa City's newest playground at Mercer Park in Iowa City,Iowa on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. The official opening of the park was declared with a ribbon cutting ceremony. (The Daily Iowan/Anthony Vazquez)

Park Master plans high bids worry some, but are in good taste


Park bids are higher than expected, but the city director of Parks and Recreation says that is all for a good reason: to invest for neighborhoods of the present and the future.

By Maria Kuiper

Parks and green spaces are a key element in Iowa City’s communities, and many are set to see some renovations.

In September 2017, the city of Iowa City adopted its Parks Master Plan, which provides a comprehensive study of the local parks based on their convenience, condition, longevity, and desirability.

Parks make up 1,699 acres of Iowa City for a population of around 74,000. The park master plan estimates population to rise to 84,000 by 2030 — in order to keep Iowa City’s acre per resident the same as it is now, the city would have to add 224 acres of parkland.

Juli Seydell Johnson, the director of Parks and Recreation, said the master plan is a continual renovation that will affect all Iowa City neighborhoods.

“This plan studies and prioritizes 40 parks in the community,” she said. “It is an investment in neighborhoods so people have gathering spaces within their neighborhoods throughout the entire city.”

One current focus is Happy Hollow Park, adjacent to the intersection of Brown and Governor Streets. A main issue with this park is that its planning bids have been over budget.

“The bids are so high ultimately because there is a lot of construction going on in Iowa City,” Seydell Johnson said. “As contractors are busy, prices go up.”

University of Iowa Professor Cathy Cole said that although the Happy Hollow project is over budget, she supports the plan because another park in her neighborhood, North Market Square Park, has had a great outcome.

“North Market Square Park has been a blessing for our neighborhood,” Cole said. “Our neighborhood is a mix of families, young professionals, and students. A nice park provides an opportunity for everyone to interact in relaxed and interesting ways.”

Mike Fallon, another North Side resident, corroborated others’ positive views of the parks.

“I’ve spent many hours with family and friends at this little gem of a park,” Fallon said. “Not a day goes by that someone isn’t using the park for some type of leisure activity. In my opinion, Happy Hollow Park is a much loved destination and more than worthy of your time and support.”

Aside from North Side renovations of Happy Hollow Park, the master plan would like to see renovations of all districts by adding parks or improving existing parks over the next 10 years.

The city plans to have the parks added or updated with better signage, physical accessibility, maintenance and upkeep, addition of technology, equity initiatives for neighborhoods challenged by socioeconomic factors, and reworking the roles of water resources.

Along with the park master plan, Iowa City has initiated a bicycle master plan that will create a more bike-friendly environment by implementing off-street, as well as on-street, bikeways, trails, and bike lanes, just in time for RAGBRAI.

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