After more than a decade of planning and a year of construction, a massive project to restore Sand Creek through the heart of Newton was completed in June.
After more than a decade of planning and a year of construction, a massive project to restore Sand Creek through the heart of Newton was completed in June.The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had mandated improvements to the creek in 1997.The city initially considered a phased-in plan, but the Corps did not approve that approach. The total cost of the project was $12 million.Of that, $5 million was federal funding secured through federal environmental restoration funds.The goals of the project were bank restoration, hardwood planting areas and a wetlands area. Original plans called for work to be done between First Street and Main Street. Because of cost underruns by the Corps, the city was able to expand the project south of First Street on the east bank.The project included placing quarry stone along the banks below the waterline to about 2 feet above normal water depth, and building a concrete walking and biking trail, which maintenance vehicles can use. Construction on the project began in March 2008.Dirt was added in some places and removed in others, and retaining walls were constructed in places along the trails and the banks of the creek as needed.The wetlands are north of Southwest 14th Street, west of Sand Creek.The 35-acre area contains grass, a few bushes, trees and water.The area has stormwater runoff in it and is flooded with effluent water.However, as far as enjoying them, city public works director Suzanne Loomis said it is not an area open to the public at this time.Jim Heineke, who was city manager during much of the planning process of the project, said he has a sense of relief the project is done, but he said he was proud to be a part of it. During a dedication ceremony in June, Heineke called it a “great improvement” and said he expects it to get even better.“A year from now, it will grow into something even more beautiful,” he said.