The Ames City Council will ask voters to approve the following bond issue on November 6th:
Shall the City of Ames, in Story County, Iowa, issue its bonds in an amount not exceeding the amount of $4,970,000 for the purpose of paying the cost, to that extent, of the acquisition, construction, improvement and equipping of parks and recreation grounds, and developing a watershed protection area, necessary and useful for the health and welfare of its citizens, including the acquisition of real estate therefore, on or adjacent to the area known as "Hallett's Quarry" in and for the City?
In July 2001, the City of Ames asked for voluntary conservation of water because of hot, dry conditions, falling water levels in city wells, and record water use. Since mid-June, usage had averaged 7.2 million gallons per day (reaching 8.2 million), compared to 6.0 million gpd in 2000. If the trend had continued, mandatory conservation measures may have been enacted.
Ames' water is supplied by 19 wells in 4 wellfields, each of them drawing from shallow glacial deposits of sand & gravel hydraulically connected to our surface waters. Water levels in these wells are affected by streamflow in the Skunk and Squaw. Had water stopped flowing in the Skunk River, as it did last summer, water would have been pumped from Hallett’s Quarry to the Skunk River in an effort to restore wells to normal levels. This practice was first undertaken in the midst of a severe drought in 1977, under the advice of an ISU hydrologist. A temporary dam was constructed at North River Valley Park to impound the flow, allowing the water to infiltrate into the aquifir. The effort was successful and water levels in downtown city wells were restored within days. The temporary dam washed away later that summer but was needed again and rebuilt several times in ‘81 and ‘82. In 1983/84, a permanent concrete dam was constructed to provide ongoing well replenishment. Water was again pumped from Hallett’s in 1988, and from Peterson Pit in 2000, to restore streamflow and replenish city wells.
If the issue were only one of water quantity, the city could likely continue this practice, whatever the future of Hallett’s. But of greater concern is water quality, and therein lies the need to preserve and protect Hallett’s as an open space. Acquisition of Hallett’s and surrounding properties, and the establishment of retention basins, wetlands, and other permanent native plant communities, will ensure that it continue to provide a reliable secondary source of water. Further residential development in the area would very likely increase pollution of the lakes and cause them to be unsuitable for use, or increase the cost of treatment. This and other concerns caused recent proposals to be denied.
The City Council considered six options for the development of Hallett's Quarry Park. These ranged from minimum land aquisition and development ($4.6 million) to maximum aquisition and development ($9 million). Option 6, maximum aquisition with minimal development ($7.5 million) was recommended to and selected by council. This plan provides for low-impact recreational use and best protects the water quality of the lakes. Prairie and wetland areas would be established or enhanced, and runoff from surrounding residential and agricultural lands would be redirected to these wetlands.
Cost estimates include:
$1,350,000 for the Hallett’s property (245 acres, 129 of which is open water),
$1,640,000 for adjacent properties (222 acres, a portion of which has since been purchased by the city),
$2,285,000 for landscape restoration (shoreline, wetland, prairie, woodland, and 13 acres of turfgrass)
$1,361,000 for site development (includes roadway, parking, boat launch, restroom facilities, water and sewer, lighting, a pedestrian bridge, and paved and limestone trails)
(source - Hallett’s Quarry Master Plan, by Conservation Design Forum for the City of Ames)
This plan combines the protection of our water supply with the development of a large open space/recreation area with native plant communties. Wildlife habitat and viewing will be enhanced, 129 acres will be available to paddlers and fishermen, and trails will provide access within the park, and connect with others proposed by the City, County, and State
The Vision Iowa board has approved $1.5 million from the Community Attractions and Tourism Fund, contingent on Ames voters approving a bond issue to finance the remainder of the project. Story County has offered about $1 million in the form of in-kind assistance with landscape restoration. There may be grants available for water protection, and maybe local busineses and contractors will step up and contribute to the improvements. The bond issue will require 60 percent approval to pass.
The water supply concerns in the 1980's resulted in the re-examination of the Ames Lake, Army Corp of Engineers Flood Control Proposal. An earlier plan to dam the Skunk River for flood control, water quality control and recreational use was revisited with water supply (and low flow augmentation) in mind. The downscaled version would have cost $42 million.
Examples of "Economics of Water Protection and Green Space" appeared in the Friends of Hallett's Quarry Position Paper, an in-depth document drafted in support of the Hallet's park development.
For more information about Hallet's Park or Friends of Hallett's Quarry, contact Erv Klaas, firstname.lastname@example.org, 294-7990 or 233-3327, or Kay Berger, email@example.com.