MidAmerican Energy Company Regional Fund Grantee Profile: City of West Des Moines

On February 1, the Great Outdoors Foundation announced that the City of West Des Moines was selected as its newest grantee of the MidAmerican Energy Company Regional Fund, a $5 million endowment invested in ICON Water Trails. The funding will be used to establish access to Raccoon River within the Raccoon River Greenway, a recommendation outlined in the 86 improvements of the original ICON feasibility study.

Project Purpose

The Greater Des Moines Water Trails and Greenways Plan (ICON) outlines a comprehensive network of water recreation for 150 miles of the region’s creeks and rivers and includes plans for the establishment of greenways, floodplain protection, and improved habitat. The Raccoon River Greenway Boat Access project along the Raccoon River is specifically called out in ICON as a recommended river access point that shall include parking, cast-in-place launch, and interpretive and way-finding signage. The plan also notes this river access location as essential for emergency response teams, great for novice paddlers, and beneficial for anglers.

Our six-month-long master planning process included a robust plan for community outreach and participation to garner project support. In addition to the monthly stakeholder meetings mentioned above, the city also conducted two public surveys throughout the master plan at strategic moments to guide the river access programming being proposed. The first public survey received 88 responses and occurred when the range of water recreation program options were on the table. The second public survey was conducted after the recreational programming was established and conceptual site layouts for the river access were presented. This second survey received 139 responses and provided much insight as to how the city should prioritize the implementation of improvements and how they tie into the surrounding park and trail infrastructure.

At the end of each public survey, we conducted a public open house meeting in Valley Junction near the project site. These open house meetings presented the findings from the surveys and offered yet another conduit for discussion with the community. Informal voting on project improvements and comment cards were utilized to document additional feedback on the project. Furthermore, our consultant utilized an interactive mapping tool on a dedicated online project page which allowed public users to leave comments, pictures, and other types of feedback on an interactive map. This tool was viewed as widely successful as the public took advantage by leaving numerous comments regarding the proposed water access infrastructure.

Project Details

The Raccoon River Greenway Boat Access project is located on 35 acres in the Raccoon River East Greenway on the east side of West Des Moines along State Highway 28 (1st Street), directly south of Historic Valley Junction, and on the north side of the Raccoon River. This project includes dedicated vehicular access off 1st/63rd Street including a monument sign and associated way-finding signs along the corridor. Additional improvements include a parking area (32 total stalls with two being ADA-accessible and 10 stalls for trailers), concrete boat ramp, sidewalks, lighting, native plantings, and associated amenities such as signage, benches, bike racks, and bike repair station.

This project will provide much-needed access to the Raccoon River along with a future trail connection from the access site to West Des Moines’ existing 76-mile-long trail system. The project will be constructed on property currently owned by the City of West Moines along the west side of 1st Street and north of the Raccoon River. Walnut Woods State Park is the nearest water access upstream (approximately 3.75 miles) while Des Moines Water Works Park is the nearest water access downstream (approximately 4 miles). This new location allows river boaters additional points and shorter river stretches to make a quick trip possible. In addition, this location would also provide a critical water access point for emergency responders that would shorten the response time to water emergencies. The intent is to transfer the portion of the property needed for the parking area and boat ramp from the City to Polk County Conservation (PCC) for future maintenance and operation. Construction costs of the entire project (minus future trails) are planned to be shared equally between the City and PCC.

Project Funding

The City of West Des Moines is honored to receive the $125,000 MidAmerican Energy Regional Fund to assist with the construction of the Raccoon River Greenway Boat Access. The City has been working closely with Polk County Conservation and the DNR to secure the following additional grants to help make this project a reality:
• Iowa DNR REAP City Parks and Open Spaces Grant – $200,000
• Iowa DNR Water Recreation Cost Share Grant – $75,000
• Iowa DNR Water Trails Enhancement Grant – $75,000
Total Estimated Project Cost: $1,873,000
Grants Secured: $475,000
Remaining: $1,398,000 (50/50 cost-share with Polk County Conservation)
Construction will begin in 2024 with completion in spring 2025.

Ryan Penning is the Director of Parks & Recreation for the City of West Des Moines. The Parks and Recreation Department oversees 1554 acres of parkland consisting of parks, special use facilities, a natural resource area, greenways, and 76 miles of paved multi-purpose trails. The department provides a wide variety of recreational services including operating a full-service community center, softball complex, two outdoor aquatic centers, spray grounds, nature lodge, dog park, archery facility, amphitheater, boathouse, and recreation complex.

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