• Tim Jamison
  • Sun August 25 2013
  • Posted Aug 25, 2013
Black Hawk County will be asked to increase its support for parks and conservation next year.

Members of the county's conservation board met with the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to explain a list of expensive projects they'll be looking to fund in coming years, ranging from replacement of the east wing at Hartman Reserve Nature Center to paving and repairing the Cedar Valley Nature Trail.

"We have this stuff ... and we have to take care of it," said conservation board chairman John Mardis.

Specifically, the supervisors likely will see budget requests next year for engineering services and dollars to match grants.

"We're going to aggressively seek outside funding," Mardis said. "We would like to put the match money in the budget before we get the grant."

But supervisors' chairman Frank Magsamen said those requests may not fly as the state decreases county revenue options.

"Going into our budget year for fiscal year '15 it's going to be a challenge for us," Magsamen said. "It's going to be a challenge for the county to provide funding for all the quality projects that are going to be requested."

Topping the list of projects discussed during the joint board meeting was an estimated $2 million to replace the 70-year-old east wing of the Hartman Reserve Nature Center.

"The east wing was built in the 1940s, and it has outlived its usefulness," said Paula Goetz, president of Friends of Hartman Reserve. "The building's just not meeting the needs of today's community."

Conservation board member Eric Dowell endorsed the proposal, saying "pretty much any kid who's grown up in Waterloo-Cedar Falls has gone through their programming."

Currently, the building is not energy efficient and is not designed to handle current programming for the more than 10,000 people who use the center's building for events and educational programs each year. An engineering report noted the assembly hall floor is not designed to handle the weight of large events now hosted there, including the popular Maple Syrup Fest.

The Friends organization is hoping to rebuild the wing on its current footprint, but reapportion the space and add a basement laboratory that could double as a weather shelter. The nonprofit organization aims to complete the project in 2016.

Vern Fish, the conservation board's director, said grants and private funding may be available for the nature center project. But he added, "We're going to need some sort of county support to go out and chase those other dollars."

Conservation officials also laid out a laundry list of proposed improvements to the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, including paving the nine miles of gravel trail from McFarlane Park to the Buchanan County line. Meanwhile, the 16 miles asphalted in 1997 is nearing the point that portions will need to be resurfaced and small bridges will need to be replaced.

Late last year, the Friends of Hartman Reserve and conservation staff talked about a possible referendum on a bond issue to raise $10 million for their project. That proposal was not discussed during the joint board meeting this week.

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