Visible from I-380, the sludgy pit of Cedar Lake, decorated ironically with an American flag and black and white lighthouse, has sparked numerous myths. The lake is currently owned by Alliant Energy and, prior to the plant’s closing in 2008, its water was used as a coolant. The plant is no longer active, but because of its association with energy production, and the generally unkempt appearance of its South cell, rumors about the lake’s water quality and safety have circulated for years.
Today, a dedicated group of Cedar Rapidians are working to turn the lake from an eyesore into a valuable public space. Dale Todd and Felicia Wyrick serve as Friends of Cedar Lake’s leaders, but its strength is in the coalition of supporters they have formed to work together.
Changing the perception of the lake is a significant part of the organization’s mission. The group realized they needed to be able to raise funds to pursue their goals, which included making the lake a public entity. They applied for a President’s Fund grant from the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation in 2014, and were able to successfully obtain their 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.
Once they became an official nonprofit, Friends of Cedar Lake was able to begin efforts to raise money and put plans into motion. They pulled key stakeholders together – Alliant Energy, City of Cedar Rapids, Linn County Board of Supervisors – and facilitated discussions about the future of the lake and the steps that would be necessary to get them there. “I’ve never been involved in a project that has so many diverse groups with a common goal,” reflects Dale Todd.
The next phase of their effort involved completing and presenting a master plan for the lake to the community. While they initially reached out to Community Foundation donor-advisors for funding to complete this, a surprise grant from 100+ Men Who Care and 100+ Women Who Care, local philanthropic groups, allowed Friends of Cedar Lake to redirect Community Foundation funds to another important step – finding out, once and for all, what is at the bottom of Cedar Lake.
Friends of Cedar Lake hopes that sediment testing will put the myths and fears that some community members still have to rest and will make the transition of the lake to a public entity easier. Dale and Felicia are optimistic that whatever they find in the sediment, they will be able to assuage any concerns about the lake’s history. They’re confident that they are well on their way to turning Cedar Lake into a valuable community asset.