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Budget friendly ways to enjoy offerings of spring

By Staff Editorial
On April 12, 2019

Winter is over so that means it’s time to get out of hibernation and stretch those legs. 

Several local options exist that not only help people break the feeling of cabin fever but also support education and conservation efforts, all at little to no cost. Let’s look at a few nearby locations and opportunities that will have us all wanting to get out and explore. 

Recreational trails can be found all over Cedar Rapids and along with area state parks, they are free to the public. Sac and Fox is the oldest recreational trail in Iowa and is a little over 7 miles long. There is more than one access point, including Mount Vernon Rd. 

This trail follows the Cedar River and Indian Creek and also passes by The Indian Creek Nature Center, which offers low-cost activities for families. Jogging, hiking, cycling, dog walking, horseback riding and nature sighting areas can all be enjoyed.  

Connected to Sac and Fox Trail is the Prairie Park Fishery, which offers hiking, bicycling, fishing, picnicking, birdwatching and paddle sports. The park is open year-round, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and is located at 2125 Otis Rd. SE. 

In Iowa, all state parks are free to get in and many offer camping for a small fee. Palisades Kepler, Lake McBride and Squaw Creek State Parks are all within a few miles from campus and are open all year. There are several others a bit further away, such as Kent State Park near Iowa City and Maquoketa Caves State Park. All offer hiking trails, nature sighting, pavilion areas and great views.  

The Riverside Skate Park is a concrete area with obstacles and ramps suitable for in-line skates, skateboards and bikes. The park is a combined effort of local students and parents, as well as the city’s Recreation Department. 

It was created with and is maintained by grants and donations. Accompanying it is Riverside Park, which also offers a playground, a walking path and a softball diamond. It is located at C St. and 13th Ave. SW and is open all year from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. 

The Noelridge Greenhouse provides a horticultural resource to the community. Visitors can tour the greenhouse and butterfly tents for free and guided tours can be reserved by contacting the parks department. The greenhouse is located at 4900 Council St. NE in Cedar Rapids, and they are open 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on weekdays. 

Volunteer opportunities are available at the Noelridge Greenhouse, as well as other locations around the area. Parks need maintenance year-round so if you are interested, contact the parks department for more information.  

Of course, we don’t want to forget those of us with four-legged family members so keep in mind that there are options for them, too. As long as the dog is leashed and owners pick up waste, they are welcome in all state and city parks. 

There are also off-leash dog parks such as Cheyenne Park in CR and Squaw Creek Park in Marion. These require a permit which can be purchased daily or annually.  

Once the temperatures are warm enough, there are several public pools in the city to help keep everyone cool and some state parks and recreation areas offer swimming as well.  

As one can see, there are many ways to enjoy the outdoors and not break the bank so check out the forecast, find some free time and get out to see everything coming back to life. 

For more information including  points of contact and park rules, visit www.iowadnr.gov or www.cedar-rapids.org.

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