LINN COUNTY, IA – June 3, 2022 – A celebration and ribbon cutting was held at the new Morgan Creek Shelter to mark the completion of a redevelopment phase of Morgan Creek Park, a 352 acre county park managed by Linn County Conservation. The new park entrance is 7212 E Ave, Cedar Rapids.
“This is a significant project that has come together despite a derecho, an ongoing pandemic and arguably one of the most challenging spring seasons for construction in many years,” said Dennis Goemaat, Linn County Conservation Executive Director.
Public Lands, including access to parks like these, play critical roles in our cities and counties.
“What we have known for many years, and is now backed up by more and more research, is that park usage leads to better health. Any given day, someone is positively affected through their connections to nature, and we continue to advocate for those opportunities,” said Goemaat.
Additional green space acquired over the last decade on the south side of the park has allowed the Conservation Board to replace outdated park amenities while improving natural resource protections from when this county park was originally created in the early 1960’s. A thorough master planning process completed in 2015 provided the road map to enhance Morgan Creek Park’s identity and resources sustainably for the future. This $6.2 million project addresses future park and community needs and sets the course for future generations. Important features include:
- Natural resource enhancements: The creation of several wetlands and native prairie will serve as natural landscape and wildlife habitat. Additionally, it provides a vehicle to improve water quality for the Cedar River watershed. The wetlands are designed to hold and filter over 4.2 million gallons of storage capacity while cleaning sediments and pollutants before they reach Morgan Creek. 100 new trees and shrubs have been planted with more scheduled for the future.
- Open-aired Shelter: The new Morgan Creek Shelter, a 60’ x 42’ venue, is reservable online and able to accommodate a variety of events. This structure has a seating capacity of 125-140 with a serving counter, picnic tables, multiple grills and a large patio space.
- Picnic Shelters: Small picnic areas were created with repurposed wood salvaged from derecho. The shelters are created from red oak, white oak, hickory, cherry, and walnut.
- Restrooms: New flushable restrooms are located in various points around the park.
- Trail Connections: The Morgan Creek Trail, a paved trail through the park, now extends into Cedar Rapids to the south, and is part of a long term project to create a trail along Highway 100, over the Cedar River and into north Cedar Rapids.
- State of the art playground: This 14,000 square foot playground with a poured-in-place rubber surface has several accessible and inclusive features. The playground is unique and never before experienced in this region. Additional benches around the play space will be installed once they arrive.
Additional park redevelopment phases for the future includes an expansion to the arboretum and the campground on the existing north side of the park, and an enclosed rental lodge and dog exercise area on the new south side.
In 2016, the voters of Linn County showed resounding support for Linn County Conservation efforts to improve water quality, natural resources and outdoor recreation with 74% approval of the Linn County Water and Land Legacy Bonds. This project identifies important components targeted by the measure.
“This bond funded project creates a major destination park day use facility that is unique to our community,” said Hillary Hughes, Linn County Conservation Board President. “Linn County Conservation continues to manage this park with beautiful eco systems as its landscape, including the native prairie, forest and wetland plant communities so critical to our Iowa wildlife, pollinators and water quality.” Along with leverage from Linn County Water and Land Legacy Bond funds, $2 million was raised through donations and partner grants including from Enhance Iowa: Cultural Attractions and Tourism (CAT), and the Hall-Perrine Foundation.
While there are many parts to the equation for a healthy life, science has conclusively shown that regular connection to nature is a key element for human health in our culture today.“Far too many of us no longer regularly immerse ourselves in natural woodlands and prairies, such as we have here in Morgan Creek Park,” said Ben Rogers, Linn County Board of Supervisors Chair. “This is the reason Linn County supports the work of Linn County Conservation at such a high level to create new opportunities around the county for people to relax, play and connect in an outdoor setting.”
In addition to the redevelopment along the way, Linn County Conservation continues to maintain and enhance the existing natural appeal of Morgan Creek Park. Attraction, development and health all rely on a diverse offering of natural resources that reach every segment of our community to break down barriers and offer equity and access to nature-based recreation for all.
About Morgan Creek Park
The park is open daily from 4 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. Existing features include the Morgan Creek Arboretum on the park’s north side, at 7439 Worcester Rd, with over 250 native and exotic trees and shrubs and a butterfly garden. Soft surfaced trails lead throughout the arboretum and into the woodland. Morgan Creek Park Campground at 7287 Worcester Rd has 35 campsites, all first-come, first served, as well as a nearby group camp that is reservable at LinnCountyIowa.gov/Conservation.