Feb 17, 2022 - News

Des Moines' $55M Birdland Marina plan snubbed in budget plans

A photo of Des Moines Birdland Marina.
A beach, wetlands and a lagoon boardwalk are proposed in the Birdland Park and Marina Master Plan. Photo courtesy of the city of Des Moines

Birdland Park and Marina's nearly $54.5 million rehabilitation was largely snubbed in some preliminary budget plans outlined last week by the Des Moines City Council.

Why it matters: The plan to repair and modernize the marina area will be shelved if the city doesn't approve an adequate allocation, councilperson Linda Westergaard argued to fellow council members.

Catch up fast: The five-phased plan adopted last year calls for a new two-story boathouse, an ice-skating ribbon (like the one in Chicago), and a pedestrian bridge.

  • Hundreds of residents and more than a dozen groups helped develop the concepts, which have been promoted as an economic development project.
  • The project's timeline depends on grants and fundraising, but it could take anywhere from 5 to 20+ years, city officials said.

State of play: Recreation advocates are trying to get some of the first pieces of a separate $125 million Iowa Confluence Water Trails (ICON) proposal going, but the project is diverting lots of local government resources.

  • Ben Page, the city's Parks and Recreation director, told council members that $1 million is budgeted for Birdland's first phase, though that's largely for boat ramp and shoreline improvements.
  • Further progress is unlikely without a larger city allocation, Page said.

Between the lines: Adding significant projects — those $5 million and above — places pressure on the city's tax rate and can result in cuts to other projects, Joe Brandstatter, the city's deputy finance director, warned the council last week.

What to watch: The city's finance team will again review the project's financing, including whether federal money allocated for pandemic recovery can be used, city manager Scott Sanders told the council.

  • The council will adopt a final budget next month.
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