Protecting an Emergency Water Source
The City of Ames has used groundwater as its primary drinking water source for many decades. During unseasonably dry years, the hydraulic connection between this groundwater source and other area waterways has occasionally resulted in a reduction to their water supply. Starting in the late 1970s, the city started pumping water from Hallett’s Quarry, situated north of town, into the Skunk River basin to help replenish the drinking water aquifer during these dry spells. While the city has mainly used this option only during times of exceptional drought to recharge the groundwater supply, it’s remained a viable solution as a secondary drinking water source.
When Hallett’s Quarry ceased operations in the 1990s, city leaders were concerned about the potential impact of proposed residential and commercial expansion on both the in-lake water quality, as well as the city’s continued access to the water for streamflow augmentation. Presented with a unique opportunity, the City of Ames held a successful bond referendum to acquire 437 acres of land surrounding and including the abandoned sand and gravel quarry to expand their recreational offerings and protect their secondary water supply source.
Improving Water Quality through Sustainable Wetlands
At the time of the city’s acquisition, the newly renamed Ada Hayden Heritage Park wasn’t much of a park. Remnants of the quarry included two lakes with an approximate surface area of 125-acres but nothing else in the way of native vegetation or active wildlife. The professionals with Snyder & Associates were enlisted to provide design and construction documents for more than 350 acres of the site, including utilities, parking lots, trails, restroom building, pedestrian bridge, shoreline improvements, and prairie restoration.
While the recreational amenities were important, the primary project goal remained the preservation of both bodies of water and improving their water quality. To that end, these multi-year improvements began with the construction of three bioengineered wetland treatment cells in the west and southwest portions of the site for the purpose of intercepting and filtering stormwater runoff from existing and future residential development in the area. The addition of the wetlands has reduced the average concentration of turbidity and total suspended solids (TSS) reaching the lake, as well.
Another major accomplishment was the stabilization of approximately three miles of shoreline. The use of heavy stones and rip-rap reduces the possibility of wind-blown erosion and creates better shoreline access. Additionally, when the city acquired the property, the quarry consisted of two large lakes separated by a central causeway. For better recreational access, the causeway was opened to allow the movement of boats between the two lakes.
User Access & Recreational Opportunities
To accommodate many of the recreational features and attract native wildlife, our team also developed a plan to restore much of the existing parkland to open prairie. Now, it’s not uncommon for rare bird species such as loons, sandhill cranes, and bald eagles to be spotted in the park. The entire park is fully accessible by approximately three miles of hard surface trail and two miles of secondary gravel trail. The secondary gravel trail allows visitors access to the native prairie and wetland features within the park.
Site visitors will also appreciate other conveniences such as restroom facilities, a picnic shelter, a boat launch, ample parking for cars and boat trailers, an ADA-compliant fishing dock, and a pedestrian bridge spanning the opening in the causeway. Our team worked in close coordination with the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT), the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and the Story County Conservation Board during park planning, design, and the multiple permitting phases of the project.