Grinnell area leaders have taken the city’s name out of the running for the so-called “Earthpark” project.
Bill Menner is executive director of Poweshiek Iowa Development which represents Grinnell-area interests who’d been talking about landing the indoor rain forest in Poweshiek County. Menner says the Earthpark board needs to make a decision soon and it became clear his group couldn’t raise the $25 million local match the board was requiring of the host city.
A letter has been sent today (Wednesday), formally withdrawing Grinnell’s name from consideration. “Things were taking so long and it was clear that we weren’t going to get to the $25 million,” Menner says. “So we want them to be able to move ahead, pick a site and start construction of this great project.”
Pella, Riverside and Tiffin are still vying to become the site of the indoor rain forest. In late March, The Iowa Environmental Project’s board of directors announced Grinnell and the other three cities were “finalists” in the site selection process and promised on March 29th that they’d announce their final decision in mid-May.
But Iowa Environmental Project executive director David Oman says they kept the process open to give Grinnell more time to raise that $25 million local match. “They concluded that they could get fairly close to the match requirement needed from the local site but couldn’t perhaps get the whole number…and we respect that,” Oman says. “We have other sites, other communities (and) developers with whom we’re working. Our process will proceed.”
The indoor rain forest has been renamed “Earthpark USA.” Oman says up to 500 people will work on the two-year construction project and once completed, he predicts up to a million people will visit the site each year. No word, though, on when the final announcement will be made.