Backers of a $155 million indoor rain forest and environmental education center in Iowa say they’ve raised about two-thirds of the money for the “Earthpark” project.
That $75 million comes from two sources.
One is a $50 million federal grant. The remaining $25 million comes from Pella or Riverside, the two communities that are finalists for Earthpark.
Earthpark executive director David Oman suggests the state might provide up to $20 million for the project. Oman’s also suggesting taxpayers might not only be asked to bankroll, up-front, much of the construction, but on-going operations of the Earthpark as well because Oman contends this will be a huge attraction to bring tourists into Iowa. “So there is a rightful role for some public money as well as private money to bring it off,” Oman says.
Oman estimates there’ll be a million visitors a year once the Earthpark’s built, creating an economic boost to the city in which it’s located. “Conservatively estimated at $130 million per year,” Oman says. “That’s a lot of economic activity.”
Critics doubt those statistics and worry taxpayers will be forced to sustain the project even after its built to keep it open. In response to the critics, Oman says the Earthpark will be a world-class facility that will generate ideas for resolving current energy dilemmas. “With global warming, $80 a barrell oil, $3 a gallon gasoline, the amount of attention being put on environmental issues is at a level we’ve never seen before,” Oman says. “This is a facility that’s much more than a representation of one eco-system. People like to dub it as the Rain Forest or look at it in a unidimensional way. This is about a celebration of multiple environments, multiple biomes, environmental hot spots.”
Oman announced this past week that Pella and Riverside are the two finalists for the Earthpark as both communities raised the $25 million “local match.”