This rendering shows the proposed Dyersville Downtown Driftless Float Park.

A new take on river restoration could bring a feature popular at water parks right into the heart of downtown Dyersville.

The Dyersville City Council is currently considering what is being called phase one of “five-or-six” planned improvements for the North Fork of the Maquoketa River, which would create a lazy-river-type amenity while also adding more flood mitigation and features that would enhance water quality.

The project, currently dubbed the Dyersville Downtown Driftless Float Park, would transform the banks of the river into stepping stones to allow for easy access to the water by introducing native stone hard-scapes.

Judy Joyce, senior geomorphologist and project designer for Impact 7G, explained the project would not only create a space where children could easily interact with the river, but also serve as a magnet that would attract and keep visitors in the downtown area.

“Our plan is to capture those people who are going to the Field of Dreams, those people who come here for youth and adult sports,” Joyce said. “Let’s make downtown Dyersville a destination — where you can see the float park, stay and have a drink, have dinner, go shopping and spend the night.”

Joyce said the project will be somewhat of a combination of Dyersville’s Bear Creek project and what the City of Dubuque has done at the Bee Branch.

According to documents provided for the project, it aims to be “a combination of park amenities and enhancements adjacent to the river, river access points, and in-stream channel restoration measures incorporated to create a unique park experience that blends infrastructure within a nature-based amenity. Proposed amenities adjacent to the river include tiered walls included for aesthetic purposes and to allow for improved viewing of the float park, an open-air pavilion, an ADA compliant ramp, native plantings for improved water quality, and an overlook. Two river access points will be constructed to allow visitors easy access to the river, one on each side of the river, and each near a lifejacket kiosk station. In-stream structures include the strategic placement of rock to W weirs and riffles which will address channel degradation by dissipating energy while also creating variable depths, flows, and play pools that are ideal for a float park experience. The existing streambank will be excavated to allow placement of the tiered walls, shoreline stabilization stone, natural stone features, and other improvements. This will require selective removal of existing shoreline vegetation and reconstruction of several storm sewer outfalls that currently outlet into the river. Storm outfall reconstruction will consist of removing and replacing ends of the existing storm pipes and constructing new flared end section pipe aprons.”

While the concept of using rivers to attract visitors is not new, Joyce said this project will create a “one-of-a-kind” natural feature that will allow families to safely interact with the river, and in times of low water, act as a natural “splash pad” of sorts.

This leg of the project would begin near the CN Railway bridge and end at 3rd Avenue SE. In phase two of the plan, the project would extend down to the new pedestrian bridge.

City Administrator Mick Michel added that the project checks off three of the goals the city has for the river — flood mitigation, cleaner water and utilizing the space located near the city’s new parking lot behind Chad’s Pizza.

As for how the endeavor will be paid for, Joyce said they have been working with the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) to secure a $1.6 million grant, who she said is excited about the project.

“It’s unique and different than others coming across their desk,” she said.

As part of the agreement, the council has pledged a 20% local match for the project, or $417,760, but Joyce noted that is the max contribution and the final number will likely be much smaller than that.

“The EDA might decide you don’t need to put that match in, you never know,” Joyce said.

Now that the council has pledged its support to push the project forward, Joyce said the EDA will make a decision “relatively soon” and the council will know by spring if the project is going to get funding.

Joyce also said they are exploring other avenues for funding, including corporate sponsorship for features, signage or logos on tubes.

While the project is still in its very early stages and there are still more hearings and public input sessions to be held, and if everything was to fall in place, construction could begin in March 2023 and finish sometime toward the end of that year.