Trees, shown at back, are removed along the Prairie Pollinator Zone at Cole Street and Otis Avenue SE, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on April 21, 2021, during Earth Week. The site is being prepared for an industrial railyard for ag giant Cargill. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — City leaders probably didn’t intend to offer an ironic Earth Day message.

But even as City Manager Jeff Pomeranz touted April as Earth Month in a videotaped message, in another corner of the city, a 28-acre Prairie Pollinator Zone was being prepared for destruction.

An angler fishes at the Prairie Park Fishery in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on April 18, 2021. Cargill is building an industrial railyard nearby on land designated as a Prairie Pollinator Zone. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

“As all of you know, a healthy city of Cedar Rapids starts with a healthy environment,” Pomeranz said, pointing to the city’s Community Climate Action Plan, which espouses access to nature, among other amenities.

Related: See photos of the Prairie Pollinator Zone from last summer.

Just this week, trees — seemingly untouched by the hurricane-strength derecho that devastated the city last year — were being removed to prepare for a 12-track, 200-car industrial railyard to be built for ag giant Cargill, next to the Prairie Park Fishery.

Ignoring outcry from neighbors and nature lovers, the Cedar Rapids City Council voted to rezone the 28-acre property at Stewart Road and Otis Avenue SE, designated as a “Prairie Pollinator Zone,” from suburban residential large lot to general industrial, and approved a development agreement that will allow the multinational company to operate the railyard 12 hours every day, 365 days per year.

The land, host to birds, monarch butterflies, beneficial bees and other wildlife, sits in a floodplain in the modest-income residential Rompot neighborhood, which was hit hard by both last year’s derecho and the unprecedented 2008 flood.

The trees were being removed this week — celebrated as Earth Week — along the rail spurline that Cargill will connect to its new rail yard, another ironic action after Cedar Rapids lost thousands of trees in the derecho.

More than a dozen people participated in a walk for climate, in conjunction with Faith Climate Action Week and Climate Action Across America, on April 18, 2021, at the Prairie Park Fishery in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

On Sunday, April 18, more than a dozen people gathered at the nearby Prairie Park Fishery for a socially distanced walk for climate, in conjunction with Faith Climate Action Week and Climate Action Across America.

Led by Charles Crawley of Cedar Rapids, the group sang Neil Young’s “Who’s Gonna Stand Up,” before walking the 1.8-mile trail around the fishery.

“Who’s gonna stand up and save the Earth? Who’s gonna say that she’s had enough? Who’s gonna take on the big machine? Who’s gonna stand up and save the Earth?”

Meanwhile, city leaders want residents to know “there’s a lot to celebrate in Cedar Rapids this Earth Month.”

“… we encourage you to learn more about (and engage in) efforts the City is undertaking to ensure our community remains vibrant and vital for years to come,” the city’s iGreenCR Newsletter noted. “Everybody can play a part in creating a more sustainable community.”

More: City Council dashes last hope to save pollinator area

Participants gather at the Prairie Park Fishery before a walk for climate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
Charles Crawley of Cedar Rapids leads the group in song. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
State Senator Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids addresses participants before the walk for climate at the Prairie Park Fishery. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
Participants walk around the trail April 18, 2021, at the Prairie Park Fishery in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (photo/Cindy Hadish)