What you need to know about a $ 65 million Polk County, Iowa conservation bond


Polk County Conservation is asking voters to approve a $ 65 million bond that, over the next decade, would help fund recreation, conservation and water quality projects in the most populous county in l ‘Iowa.

The Polk Water & Land Legacy County Bond will appear on the ballots on Nov. 2, and the Conservation Department and its board of directors already have plans in place to start spending the money. Over 10 years, they say, residents would see a difference in the quality of Polk County’s lakes, rivers and streams, more trail connections, abundant wildlife habitat, flood control and improved parks.

If approved by voters, the new bond would be the renewal of a $ 50 million bond passed in 2012 that has funded several notable projects across the county.

Polk County Conservation Director Rich Leopold said the county is racing against time to keep the little open land available in the growing Des Moines metro, as cities annex properties and that developers build there.

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“The des Moines metro is growing so fast that if we don’t do it now, we won’t,” he said.

Here’s what you need to know before you head to the polls on November 2.

Rich Leopold, director of Polk County Conservation, speaks during a press conference at Sleepy Hollow Sports Park in Des Moines.

What would the Polk Water & Land Legacy County Bond money be used for?

If voters approve the bond issuance, Polk County Conservation plans to spend $ 25 million on water quality projects, $ 20 million on parks, $ 10 million on land acquisition and $ 10 million for trails.

It will leverage federal money, grant programs and private donations for additional funds.

The department has so far identified around $ 32 million worth of projects, although final costs may vary depending on other sources of funding and design plans, Leopold said. It will also seek to identify future opportunities.

“Some of them are proactively driven by us and others are responsive and opportunity-driven,” such as responding to flooding or taking advantage of the recent opportunity to purchase the 76-acre Sleepy Hollow Sports Park, which the county acquired with $ 236,000 in bond. money when its owners decided to sell this fall, Leopold said.

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Three projects would start immediately:

Iowa Confluence Water Trails (ICON) – $ 15 million would help finance water trail projects in downtown Des Moines on the Des Moines and Racoon rivers. A portion of the funds would be used to provide recreational access to Beaver, Walnut, Yeader and Fourmile creeks, as well as water quality and flood control initiatives throughout Polk County.

Sleepy Hollow Winter Sports Complex – $ 5 million would be used to develop a 60-site tented campground with toilets and showers, to add cross-country and downhill ski trails and snowshoe trails, and to modernize the ski chalet.

Concept plan of Sleepy Hollow Sports Park by Polk County Conservation

Trail connections – $ 4 million would be used to build trail connections, including from Polk City to the High Trestle Trail; Jester Park to the Johnston / Grimes / Granger neighborhood; and the Neal Smith Trail along the Des Moines River to the Chichaqua Valley Trail, which runs from Berwick to Baxter.

Three other longer-term projects are a drop-in center at Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt in Maxwell (approximately $ 3 million); an overhaul of Thomas Mitchell Park in Mitchellville (approximately $ 3 million); and the creation of a new park along the Des Moines River southeast of downtown Des Moines (approximately $ 2 million).

How much will the Polk County Water & Land Legacy obligation cost taxpayers?

A taxpayer who owns a home worth $ 198,400, the Polk County average, would pay $ 11 per year for the bond, according to the county. A portion of this $ 11 will also be used to reimburse the initial deposit and is not an additional payment.

The projects would be carried out over 10 years. Both bonds would be repaid in 2033.

Who supports the link?

According to campaign disclosure documents, several Des Moines metro companies donated to help fund advertisements and consulting services.

The Polk County Water and Land Legacy Bonds PAC raised $ 222,100, including donations from Ruan Transportation, American Equity, Nationwide, Meredith and EMC.

“These are people who recognize that if we are to recruit and retain great workers, we need to have recreational opportunities and we need to have clean water. People prioritize this,” said the treasurer of the committee, Mark Langgin.

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This name sounds familiar. Haven’t we already passed a similar link?

Yes. Voters overwhelmingly approved a $ 50 million Polk Water & Land Legacy County bond in 2012.

The bond money went to several notable projects including the construction of the Jester Park Nature Center and four rental cabins in the park, the restoration of Easter Lake, and a link between the Chichaqua Valley Trail and the northeastern suburbs. by Des Moines.

The county also began work on the Fourmile Creek Greenway, purchasing property in the 500-year-old floodplain; eliminate invasive species; restore dead lakes, grasslands and wetlands; and improving the stream bed to prevent flooding. The area surrounding Fourmile Ankeny Creek on the northeast side of Des Moines was hit by catastrophic flash floods in 2018 after 9 inches of rain fell in two hours.

Tom Levis, president of the fundraising campaign for the 2021 bond, Vote yes! For Polk Clean Water, highlighted the work done at Fort Des Moines Park on the south side of town as an impactful use of previous bond funds.

There, Polk County Conservation added restrooms, an outdoor classroom, hiking trails, a boat launch, and fishing access to a 14-acre pond, which has been dredged and stabilized. . It cost $ 2.4 million, of which $ 300,000 came from private sources.

“The water looked like chocolate milk,” said Levis, who chaired the Polk County Conservation Board when the 2012 bond issue passed. “When they finished it was crystal clear – you could see the rocks 10 feet from the shore. It worked.”

Polk County Conservation nearly doubled the amount of bonds by tapping into federal funds, grant programs and private donations. It has used about $ 41.5 million in external funds in addition to the $ 46.5 million in bonds spent so far.

What does the language of the ballot say?

Here’s what Polk County voters will see on the ballot. Vote yes if you support the link; no if you don’t.

“Should Polk County, Iowa, issue its general obligation bonds in an amount not exceeding $ 65,000,000 for the purposes of land acquisition and improvement?” for conservation, recreation or other public park purposes managed by the Polk County Conservation Council? , including the protection of drinking water sources, the protection of the water quality of rivers, lakes and streams, including the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers and their tributaries, the protection of wildlife habitat and natural areas, providing more outdoor recreation opportunities, improving public access and the safety of rivers and streams for flotation, boating and fishing, by providing trails walking, hiking, biking and watering in Polk County, and preventing flooding, with full public disclosure of all expenses? “

Kim Norvell covers growth and development for the Registry. Contact her at [email protected] or 515-284-8259. Follow her on Twitter @KimNorvellDMR.

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