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January 13, 2006 2:12 PM   Subscribe

The vision: a federally funded 5-acre enclosed rainforest, supposedly the world's largest, will make Coralville, Iowa into a world-class destination city and ignite the imagination of its heretofore benighted citizens. The problem: a federally funded rainforest. In Iowa. Read some entertaining background and analysis on the inspiring project here and here.
posted by thirteenkiller (36 comments total)

 
As a resident of Iowa City, I think it would be really cool to have a rainforest 5 minutes from my house. It would also probably bring a lot of tourism revenue into the area.

As a resident of America, and a taxpayer, this idea is re-goddamn-diculous given our current financial situation.
posted by anomie at 2:18 PM on January 13, 2006


Coralville a "world-class destination city?" That I would have to see.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:20 PM on January 13, 2006


On average, 5 acres of rainforest are burned down somewhere in the world about every two seconds. We should put our priorities elsewhere.
posted by driveler at 2:31 PM on January 13, 2006


Another IC resident reporting in. This is the most ridiculous thing to happen to Iowa in as long as I can remember.
posted by fraxil at 2:33 PM on January 13, 2006


"They'll come to Iowa City, see, and they'll think it's really boring. So they'll drive up and want to pay us, like buying a ticket!"
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:37 PM on January 13, 2006


What's that song about the tree museum?
posted by the jam at 2:41 PM on January 13, 2006


Corn corn corn corn corn --hey look, a tree! corn corn corn corn --was that a geodesic dome? Who cares, let's make Nebraska by night fall. corn corn corn corn

/Grinnell alumnus
posted by JeremyT at 2:44 PM on January 13, 2006


Ah! That's how nature should be: in a hermetically sealed box.
posted by brundlefly at 2:48 PM on January 13, 2006


What's that song about the tree museum?

Took all the trees
Put 'em in the tree museum
Charged the people a dollar and a half just to see 'em
posted by fixedgear at 2:50 PM on January 13, 2006


Hey, they built a rainforest where I live. I went inside once, about ten years ago. Paid $15 for the privellage. It was quite lovely, I guess.
posted by Jimbob at 2:50 PM on January 13, 2006


Monorail!
posted by gubo at 2:51 PM on January 13, 2006


Iowa City doesn't need this rainforest. It sounds more like a Shelbyville idea.
posted by soiled cowboy at 2:58 PM on January 13, 2006


Coralville sucks ass, by the ay. It's a stripmall parasite living of Iowa City, a town with actual character.
posted by delmoi at 3:15 PM on January 13, 2006



Coralville sucks ass, by the way. It's a stripmall parasite living off Iowa City, a town with actual character.


My fingers are cold.
posted by delmoi at 3:17 PM on January 13, 2006


according to IMBD, this is just pre-production for Pauley Shore's triumphant return in Bio-Dome 2: Iowa Corn.
posted by carsonb at 3:24 PM on January 13, 2006


When is this supposed to be finished?
posted by gottabefunky at 4:15 PM on January 13, 2006


They could call it Hodmimir's Forest
posted by Smedleyman at 4:17 PM on January 13, 2006


In memory of a real tree.
posted by furtive at 4:22 PM on January 13, 2006


The Amazon Becomes Iowa
posted by jaronson at 4:23 PM on January 13, 2006


Huh, I remember them talking about this when I was still in Iowa back on '00. Didn't seem like a great idea then either.

/Cornell College alumn
posted by PurplePorpoise at 4:36 PM on January 13, 2006


5 acres? Good god. You'd be able to look right through it.
posted by billysumday at 4:38 PM on January 13, 2006


Learn more about the natural world in an artificial rain forest?
posted by Cranberry at 4:58 PM on January 13, 2006


It's one of Senator Grassley's pork projects.

From the article...

"The $50 million for the Iowa Environmental Project was released by the U.S. Department of Energy for the rain forest project in September 2004."

and

"...approximately $2.9 million of the $50 million federal appropriation has been spent."
posted by jaronson at 5:05 PM on January 13, 2006


At the other end of the spectrum
posted by longsleeves at 6:47 PM on January 13, 2006


Regrettably, due to construction delays, by the time the Iowa rainforest project had made it through committee and legislature, been signed off on and been appropriately funded, climate change had surrounded the site with a tropical rainforest.
posted by hank at 6:55 PM on January 13, 2006


Yeah, people will absolutely flock to see a 5 acre rainforest. Just like they flocked to the Biosphere.
posted by ryanhealy at 7:34 PM on January 13, 2006


Just FYI, this probably isn't going to happen. And many, many Iowans think it's a stupid idea. The maintenance of such a facility will bleed all but maybe one or two Iowa municipalities dry when the "throngs" predicted by supporters fail to show up.

I read a statistic stating that we could fly every Iowa 3rd grader to an actual rainforest and back for what this joke costs. Some napkin math shows it working out to ~$1200 for each third grader (40K or so kids).
posted by jaysus chris at 8:00 PM on January 13, 2006


Yeah, people will absolutely flock to see a 5 acre rainforest. Just like they flocked to the Biosphere.

Actually, their explicit model is the by-all-accounts successful Eden Project:
Since it opened three years ago, the Eden Project - a much-praised botanical theme park - is reckoned to have brought in £450m to the Cornish economy, and created some 2,500 jobs.

Me, I dunno. It seems worthwhile, and the federal funding is only a (big) fraction, but it's also pretty clearly pork and a huge investment risk. The Biosphere was always a bit dodgy because of the New-Agey aspect -- although certainly some right-wingers feel the same way about any hint of environmentallism. I'd judge the potential success as more "unproven".
posted by dhartung at 10:25 PM on January 13, 2006


As a resident of Iowa City, I think it would be really cool to have a rainforest 5 minutes from my house. It would also probably bring a lot of tourism revenue into the area.

As a former resident of Iowa City, I also think it would be cool (not pork-worthy, though). But it so won't frickin' bring tourism. Then again, I remember seeing those big-ass tour busses dropping people off just to shop at the Coral Ridge Mall, which is just so fucking stupid, so what do I know?
posted by dirigibleman at 1:09 AM on January 14, 2006


Tourists go to England/Cornwall for a lot of different reasons. I'm willing to bet the Eden Project (and the Iowa Rainforest) is more of a "We can do this while we're in England" versus a "Let's got to England and do this" kind of attraction.

In Iowa we don't get tourists as a matter of course, we just get penny-ante gamblers, and there's not a casino within an hour of this thing. Maybe it would fly in a place where the market for such a thing already exists (Vegas, or somewhere on the coasts maybe). But to create one in a cornfield is silly.
posted by jaysus chris at 1:11 AM on January 14, 2006


As a Wisconsin resident who has been to every neighboring state except Iowa, I would maybe stop by and check it out. Especially if it's on the way to that big ball of twine in Minnesota.
posted by drezdn at 4:17 AM on January 14, 2006


OK, Federally Funded = I get to pay for it. Winter in Iowa = average temperature around 10º or 20º F, could dip down to minus 40º now and then. Rain forests like it around 80º F, and also like twelve hours of sunlight a day, something Iowa doesn't usually have.

Am I also expected to heat, cool, water, and grow light this 5 acre fantasy? Can I say no? The Biosphere II people did this, but they didn't ask me to pay for it. They also found operating expenses were high, and managing the critters was a lot harder than expected.
posted by Ken McE at 10:01 AM on January 14, 2006


Years ago, I went to Carroll County, Iowa to visit my sister-in-law. I liked to embarrass her by asking for postcards at every store we went into. Not a single post card anywhere because a) there was nothing noteworthy to take a picture of and b) there hadn't been a tourist in the area since about 1973 when a couple in a VW van got lost on the way to Clear Lake.

Iowa is--to put it kindly--not scenic.
posted by leftcoastbob at 4:27 PM on January 14, 2006


What makes it worse: they tore down iowa city/coralville's only strip club to make room for this crap. According to MSNBC: "Supporters say it would create 400 permanent jobs and have an annual economic impact at $120 million, largely from the 1.5 million visitors projected each year. It also would revitalize 30 acres along the Iowa River now occupied by industry, a sanitation company and the community’s only strip club. Soil studies found contamination, leading to the site’s designation as a federal brownfield."

'Dolls' - the strip club - was a well run club. sad to see it go so we can have more "tourist dollars" while stealing from the nation.
posted by meanie at 4:36 PM on January 15, 2006


Grassley, for an elder statesmen, has funded and said some really stupid things.

"You know, what--what makes our economy grow is energy. And, and Americans are used to going to the gas tank (sic), and when they put that hose in their, uh, tank, and when I do it, I wanna get gas out of it. And when I turn the light switch on, I want the lights to go on, and I don't want somebody to tell me I gotta change my way of living to satisfy them. Because this is America, and this is something we've worked our way into, and the American people are entitled to it, and if we're going improve (sic) our standard of living, you have to consume more energy."

--Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA)

We can't change our way of living by cutting down on energy consumption, but my god, can we ever create an artificial rainforest.
posted by mikeh at 11:33 AM on January 16, 2006


I would even say we're entitled to an indoor rainforest!
posted by mikeh at 11:33 AM on January 16, 2006


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