CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Fourteen years after unprecedented flooding forever changed the historic Czech Village and New Bohemia neighborhoods, a new flood protection system was celebrated in Cedar Rapids.
A ribbon-cutting Friday, July 22, 2022, on the 16th Avenue Bridge of Lions marked the completion of the $12 million roller gate system that can be closed at each end of the bridge in case of flooding. Each gate is 14 feet high, by 67 feet long, with a thickness of 4 feet, 6 inches and weight of 61,200 pounds. The gates can lock in place in about 30 minutes.
The flood protection system has been gradually constructed along the Cedar River since flooding devastated Cedar Rapids in 2008, with construction of the gate system beginning in 2020.
Speakers at the ribbon-cutting included: Cedar Rapids Mayor Tiffany O’Donnell; City Manager Jeff Pomerantz; Lt. Col John M. Fernas of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Monica Vernon, executive director of The District: Czech Village & New Bohemia. Guests included Miss Czech-Slovak Iowa Audrey Mickelson and the Czech Royal Court, dressed in traditional Czech outfits known as kroje.
Temperatures soared into the 90s as Vernon pointed out the new metal archways that adorn the flood walls lining the Cedar River, which act as gateways to Czech Village and New Bohemia, with the Bridge of Lions serving as a connection between the two historic neighborhoods.
Originally constructed in 1910, the bridge was demolished in 1988, with advocates such as the late Edward Kuba lobbying to use “old world” elements, including the lion sculptures that now adorn the bridge.
More: See photos of Dinner on the Bridge of Lions and photos of the ribbon-cutting event, below: