Dubuque provides updated 5-year plan for potential parks, restoration projects

Future land acquisitions and the development of a long-untouched Dubuque park were listed as potential projects by Dubuque city staff in a recent update to the City Council.

Council members this week reviewed an updated five-year plan detailing the city’s intended use of funds from the Resource Enhancement and Protection program — which is managed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources — and listing potential major projects for the next five fiscal years.

Potential projects include park and trail development at Roosevelt Park, which has not been developed since the early 1990s. Other possible work includes environmental restoration of Eagle Point Park, ecological restoration of Four Mounds Park and acquisitions of a property near Four Mounds Park and land at Mines of Spain State Recreation Area.

While the projects are not guaranteed to come to fruition, Dubuque Leisure Services Manager Marie Ware said they are listed in the plan as likely candidates for REAP funding that the city could pursue, though other projects could take their place.

“We have hundreds of different projects that we are looking at,” Ware said. “There are specific things in these projects that would score well for receiving Resource Enhancement and Protection program funds.”

The city’s updated five-year plan will be part of a larger Dubuque County five-year REAP plan, providing a large list of projects that municipalities and other governing entities in the county intend to pursue with REAP funding from the DNR.

Ware said the city usually applies for REAP funding every year, and though not all grant applications are greenlit by the state, the city has a fairly high success rate in securing funding.

“We have a pretty good track record,” Ware said.

Projects eligible for REAP funding must work toward enhancing and protecting the state’s natural and cultural resources. Ware said the city previously has used the funds to acquire additional park land and restore the natural resources in a number of parks.

In fiscal year 2021, the city used REAP funds to conduct environmental restoration work at Four Mounds and Eagle Point parks.

The city intends to apply for a $200,000 REAP grant at the end of August to help pay for the acquisition of a 40.5-acre property from Four Mounds Foundation. City officials have said they intend to use the property to establish a new park that will include a large community garden and swaths of natural habitat to explore.

Ware said additional land acquisitions possibly could occur in the future, though they are not guaranteed. The acquisition of land at Mines of Spain and E.B. Lyons Interpretive Center is listed as a project for which the city hopes to use REAP funds in fiscal year 2026.

Ware said the city has had an interest in acquiring Mines of Spain land in order to preserve it for residents for several years, but it is not a project city staff members are actively pursuing.

“We always have said that if there is an opportunity for any other acquisition in the Mines of Spain Recreation Area, we would be interested,” Ware said. “That is such an important resource for our community.”

City Council Member Danny Sprank, who serves as the Dubuque representative for the Dubuque County REAP Committee, said he is enthusiastic about the projects and initiatives listed in the most recent five-year plan, noting in particular the proposed development of Roosevelt Park, a 207-acre property that has remained undeveloped since the early 1990s.

“People have always been wondering what we are going to do with that property,” Sprank said. “I would like to see what we can do.”

Ware said the five-year plan could change in future years as new potential projects are identified, adding that ultimately, city staff seeks to pursue projects that are desired by residents, align with city priorities and have a fair chance of actually receiving funding.