Unfortunate circumstances have been revealed for an iconic cemetery in Marshalltown as a staple attraction in Riverside, Lake Woodmere, evaporates due to lack of affordable water resources and year-round water main closure last. The situation is the result of a longstanding unwritten deal with Marshalltown Water Works that ended last January.
For the past 120 years, Riverside has not been required to pay for water under a mutual agreement with the city, allowing lime and sewage sludge from the water treatment center to be dumped near on the northwest side of the cemetery grounds, under the bluffs and along the Iowa River, in exchange for free water, including the water pipe that feeds the pond. However, after reassessment, this deal is no longer on the table as circumstances have changed over the years.
Last year, as Water Works reassessed the status of local businesses that receive free water, Riverside was included in the surveys. According to Shelli Lovell, managing director and CEO of Marshalltown Water Works, companies have traditionally received free water in exchange for something, but there is no longer a viable or fair exchange with Riverside at this time. . Regarding the dumping of waste lime, Water Works found documents from the 1970s that indicate dumping near the cemetery was no longer occurring.
“I think there was always an attempt to make sure it was a fair trade for something for that free water, and there’s nothing like that in place now. It’s not really possible to justify providing free water,” Lovell said. “What I think some people lose sight of is (that) water costs money to process and deliver, so it costs money to do it. The board of directors is sensitive to their situation.
Lovell also acknowledged that many people inside and outside the community enjoy the pond and fountain, including the painting. But, according to Lovell, Riverside’s situation is no different from other nonprofits in the city.
“They are all doing good things. Being a non-profit organization also does not justify providing free water. Otherwise they would all get it too,” Lovell said. “It’s a difficult situation.”
Although Water Works did not budge on the request for free water, they offered alternative payment plans and sent staff to check the water line for leaks or anything that would compromise its efficiency or would lead to an unnecessary increase in expenditure.
Before Water Works made the official decision in January to charge water fees to Riverside, Dorie Tammen – Riverside’s chief executive – had agreed to shut down the water line in the fall of 2021 to see how badly the lake would be affected without the water supply. . Now that Water Works has confirmed financial responsibility for the cemetery, Tammen has realized that Riverside cannot afford to reopen the water line even though that water source is needed to supply the lake. Tammen estimates the water bill, including use of the pond, would be over $3,000 a month, which is not in the nonprofit cemetery’s budget.
The circumstances surrounding this situation prompted Tammen to look for solutions to keep the pond filled. After cutting the water line last year, the water level has dropped dramatically, especially in the last two to three months. This has created serious concern for geese, swans, turtles and domestic fish, as the lake will inevitably dry up completely if no action is taken.
In addition to the already existing expenditures and the recovery of the derecho in 2020, the loss of Woodmere Lake would greatly harm the scenic nature of the Riverside appeal, which is central to attracting visitors to this historically rich cemetery which has was established in 1863. during the civil war. Tammen is working diligently and desperately to find solutions to this dilemma and hopes community members can offer any input or awareness.
Help is needed to keep the pond filled as it serves as the mainstay of the cemetery which attracts visitors from all parts of the country and is the obvious choice for many to rest their loved ones.
Anyone with questions can contact Tammen at [email protected] or (641) 753-7891.
Contact Andrew Ubben at 641-753-6611 or [email protected]