More trails, new classrooms part of Nahant planning

More recreation trails, expanding from the 1.75 miles available now to 7 miles in 10 years, is one of the recommendations for Nahant Marsh Education Center in west Davenport, included in a new draft master plan released earlier this month.

The nonprofit, 300-plus-acre wetland preserve accomplished most of the goals set forth in its 1998 master plan, so it was time for new recommendations to guide the center into the future, Nahant’s executive director, Brian Ritter, said.

An updated and shared vision is needed to provide continuity as staff and board members change, he said.

About 55 people attended open-house events last week at Nahant, 4220 Wapello Ave., to learn about the plan and offer feedback. People were most enthusiastic about the prospect of more trails and access, Ritter said. Some of the trails will be paved or surfaced with crushed rock.

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Other ideas in the plan include the creation of a wetland mitigation bank, creating both habitat and revenue, and a possible nature-based preschool on 60 acres of soon-to-be-acquired property. Other recommendations include:

  • Building new classrooms and additional parking.
  • Addressing a contaminated dump site in Carp Lake.
  • Acquiring more land, possibly 200 to 300 acres, within a 3-mile radius.

One concern not extensively addressed in the report is what to do if a merger of the Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern railroads is approved, creating a 175% increase in train traffic past the marsh.

Federal transportation board holding Davenport public meeting next week on train merger

When studies began for the new plan began two years ago, the proposed merger hadn’t yet been announced, Ritter said.

If approved, the increase in traffic would create more noise, air and light pollution and the potential risk of contamination. There also is the possibility the railroad would close the crossing on Wapello Avenue that would cut off access between marsh properties.

Ritter expects more recommendations about the railroad issue to be developed and included in the final report that is expected in early 2023.

“There are lots of concerns, lots of unknowns,” he said.

Here is a closer look at some of the recommendations:

• Build a new education area. At present, the Nahant Education Center consists of a 1949 rehabbed sportsmen’s clubhouse with a new addition built in 2015. The report recommends that the clubhouse portion be demolished within the next 10 to 15 years and replaced with a new structure at an estimated cost of $ 9 million is $ 12 million. The 2015 addition would remain.

• Address pollution at Carp Lake. Located on the downriver side of Interstate 280, the former quarry contains slag and sand dumped from a now-defunct foundry, which contains heavy metals that are potentially leaching into the lake. The report offers several suggestions, ranging from doing nothing and keeping the public out to removing or capping the slag.

“We just need to do a lot more studying,” Ritter said.

• The plan also envisions increasing handicapped accessibility to the marsh; building additional parking, restrooms, a playground and overlooks for both marsh property and trains; installing better signage; and continued monitoring of the marsh’s health by staff, including sedimentation and invasive species.

Goals in Nahant’s original plan included the building of trails, purchase of more land, hiring a full-time director and building classrooms, all of which have been accomplished.

The new plan – 55 pages long with 306 pages of addendums – cost $ 300,000 and was created as a joint project by Nahant and the US Army Corps of Engineers. Because of in-kind contributions, the net cost to Nahant will be about $ 58,000, Ritter said.

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