By Jim Elias
Land west of the Muscatine Soccer Complex and Kent-Stein Park may be developed into a multi-use hub connecting the city’s three trail heads to parks and recreational areas.

A Leadership Muscatine team is advancing a plan which could provide additional parking for soccer, baseball, and softball events; lighted sports fields; two shelters; restroom facilities; and two crosswalks on Houser Street for public safety.

There’s been a lot of excitement about the project,” said Travis Franke, a member of the Leadership Muscatine team. “There are certainly safety concerns, but it’s a great development opportunity we hope to see add value and benefit to the community.”

The property being considered is owned by the Kent-Stein Foundation.  According to Franke, that organization is interested in and willing to see the land developed for this type of recreational usage. A similar project was considered in 2012.

The Leadership Muscatine team has been working hard to establish concrete development plans and strategies for funding the project. The project offers several community benefits:

·        Its location is where three trail heads meet: Westside Trails, Riverfront Trails and the Deep Lakes Trail system;
·        The parking lot could serve as overflow parking for soccer and baseball complexes, eliminating parking in grass;
·        New crosswalks will help increase public safety for users of the trail systems and children at events; and
·        The facility will function as a hub tying many adjoining recreational areas together. Existing recreational areas, besides the trail systems, include the pollinator area, Kent-Stein Park, the Muscatine Soccer Complex, the dog park (under development), and the compost site.

The development project has two projected phases. Phase I would involve marketing and fundraising, parking lot construction and lighting, construction of two shelters and one restroom, and construction of two crosswalks. Phase II would include development of multiple, lighted sports playing surfaces, fencing around fields that will allow for drop-in field availability, and construction of a trail around the fields with workout stations.

The project is expected to cost around $800,000 and to be funded through grants and other private sources. The Leadership Muscatine team has already introduced the project to the Muscatine City Council and received the city’s support. Major funding is not expected from the city.

Members of the Leadership Muscatine team include Cortney Rexroth, Mike Wedell, Mark Yerington, Travis Franke, Doug Pabst, Nikki Salek, and Ahren Gross. The team will present their final project plan at the Leadership Muscatine graduation in April.