Pella beat out Riverside today to become the site of the 150-million dollar “Earthpark.” The Iowa Environmental Project Board of Directors met in Grinnell and made the announcement of their final selection for the project which was once know as the rainforest.
The executive director of the Iowa Environmental Project, David Oman, says there were a number of factors that led to the selection of Pella. He says the beauty and size of the site on the shore of Lake Red Rock, the community and its size and support, were all important factors. Oman says the board was impressed with the support of the Pella community.
Oman says “a great project needs a great town”, as he says it isn’t all about the money and the site. Oman says the Environmental Project Board of Directors will now negotiate the final plans with Pella and line up the remaining financing. Oman says there could be some Vision Iowa Funding, companies are being talked to about support, there could be some debt financing too. He says they’d like to break ground in 2007 and open in 2010.
Oman says one and a half million people could visit the Earthpark each year. Oman says there’s nothing like it in the United States and it will be a national environmental center. Oman says it will be a lot of attention to the nation and to Iowa.
Pella Area Development Corporation executive Director Karen Eischen says it’s an exciting time. Eischen says everyone in Pella is very happy right now and they’re excited to get the project underway. Pella is best known for its annual tulip festival — and Eischen says that event was probably part of the reason Pella was chosen for Earthpark.
Eischen says, “We have for a long time now attracted a cultural visitor, somebody who’s looking for, just beyond a vacation, they’re looking for an educational experience. Same with Earthpark. So I think it parallels very well, and everything we had to offer.”
Eischen laughed when asked if the indoor rainforest would include tulips. She says if they have anything to say about it, they’d like to see them, although she admits the tulips are probably not native to a rain forest. The plans for the project have been in the works almost 10 years, and Oman says it’s a “Red Letter Day” to finally get the site chosen. For more information, surf to:www.iowachild.org.