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

With the area’s unique access to water, city leaders envisioned the park serving as a year-round, day-use park for visitors and locals alike. They brought Snyder & Associates into the fold to conduct public meetings to gain project input and prepare the design for the park’s master plan. Additionally, funding sources were identified and applied for, with grants being secured through Vision Iowa and Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP).

Multi-Phase Construction Schedule makes Park Plan Reality

Master plan of park

Overhead artist’s rendering of the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area.

The Snyder & Associates design team developed a park plan that included amenities for bird watching and fishing, a multi-use trail network, a natural play area, and numerous picnic shelters with a modern lodge facility available for public use. A marina provides a rental station for paddleboards, kayaks, canoes, as well as a concession stand.

Implementing the park master plan required three separate phases of design and construction. During the first phase, a two-mile trail was constructed around the lake. This trail was then opened for public use during the remaining construction phases. The second phase included the marina building which has concessions, restrooms, and the rental stand. Improvements also included the shelter area, parking for vehicles and boat trailers, and a boat ramp.

By far the most aggressive construction efforts took place during phase three of the project. This phase included the construction of the lodge, an outdoor patio and public overlook, numerous shelter areas, the natural play area, fishing jetties, canoe launch, more parking space, and landscaping efforts, which included a variety of native prairie plantings to help restore the natural state of the area.

Anticipated Construction Challenges Test Design Team

Construction crew installing pavement

Crews pour concrete for one of the several pathways around the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area.

A primary challenge faced by the design team was tied to the sand foundation surrounding the quarry site. To create a stable foundation for the lodge and the patio space, a reinforced pier system was required. The sandy soil was also cause for concern for the landscape team. However, through collaboration with a seed supplier, custom seed mixes for Sand Prairie and Emergent Aquatics were created that would flourish in the soil’s sand-based structure.

Another obstacle the team had to overcome was the discovery of miscellaneous debris that had been buried around the grounds over time. This debris was found after construction had begun. Our team was able to make the necessary revisions to the plans without losing substantial time in the schedule.

Perhaps the recreation area’s best feature is the accessibility that it provides to all citizens. From the paved trail around the lake and all the picnic shelters to play areas, restrooms, concessions, and event lodge were all constructed to meet ADA standards. Designated parking spaces provided in the lot have an accessible route from the parking area to all amenities.

The recreation area was named after Terry Trueblood, the former Director of Iowa City’s Parks and Recreation Department who led the efforts to garner project support and funding. Mr. Trueblood’s drive and determination, coupled with the Snyder & Associates teams’ practical, yet creative design acumen has developed an outdoor oasis that will be enjoyed for many generations to come.