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Former Quarry Becomes a Recreational Amenity 

Located along the Iowa River on the southern edge of Iowa City, the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area is Iowa City’s largest park.

With unique access to water, it serves as a popular year-round, day use park for visitors and locals alike.

The 207-acre site was once farmland used for growing alfalfa, soybeans, and corn before it became a quarry from the late 1970s through 2005. The quarrying process, which extracted sand and gravel for local construction projects, created Sand Lake. Once all viable material had been extracted and it was quarried down to blue clay, Iowa City bought the land to develop as a public park.

Snyder & Associates conducted meetings for project input and prepared the design for the park master plan. Funding was applied for and grants were secured through Vision Iowa and Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP).

Three-phase Park Master Plan

Implementation of the park master plan resulted in three phases of design and construction.

Phase 1: Construction included a two-mile trail around the lake, which the public could use during the remaining construction phases.

Phase 2: Construction included the marina building which has concessions, restrooms, and a rental stand for canoes and paddleboards. Improvements also included a shelter, parking for boats and trailers, and a boat ramp.

Phase 3: The largest of all construction phases included the lodge, outdoor patio, public overlook, shelters, natural play area, fishing jetties, canoe launch, parking, and landscaping.

Challenges faced during the course of the project were tied to the sand foundation of the area and miscellaneous debris that had been buried over time. This debris was discovered during construction which required revisions to the plan. Creating a stable foundation for the lodge and patio, a reinforced pier system was needed. Through collaboration with a seed supplier, custom seed mixes for Sand Prairie and Emergent Aquatics were created that would flourish amidst the soil’s sand structure.

Native prairie landscaping was incorporated to help restore the natural state of the area.

The park is named after Terry Trueblood, the former director of Iowa City’s Parks and Recreation Department who led efforts to garner project support and funding. Park amenities include:

  • Fishing
  • Bird watching
  • A marina
  • Three picnic shelters and a lodge
  • Natural play area
  • Two miles of multi-use trail
  • Concessions and a rental station for paddleboards, kayaks, and more