Rock Island annexes 410 acres of wetlands on southwest side

Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 11:28 PM CDT
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ROCK ISLAND, Ill. (KWQC) - The Rock Island City Council unanimously approved the city’s largest land expansion in the last thirty years.

It acquired 17 parcels of land, totaling 410 acres, just outside of city limits back in October. Rock Island acquired an additional 128 acres, 538 in total, from the Riverstone Group for $1 last year.

The area is mostly wetlands near Bally’s Casino and the Interstate 280 corridor on the city’s southwest side

There are no formal plans quite yet, but, Community and Economic Development director Miles Brainard said the city hopes to appeal to so-called eco-tourists.

“What we want is a diversified range of attractions. Eco-tourism is just one slice of that pie,” Brainard said. “This is a draw, for some people to see, say eagles out in their natural habitat, blue heron, all the rest of it. They might discover there’s more to Rock Island than just that, and they might want to come back some other time.”

In addition to tourists, Quad City residents would also have a new part of nature to explore right in their own backyard.

“A lot of folks might not immediately think of [wetlands] as a place to recreate,” Brainard said. “If you hunt duck, or if you like to kayak, they can actually be very interesting amenities for a community to have.”

Preserving the area as a wetland also serves as natural flood mitigation from the Mississippi River.

“There’s an ecological value, of course, to maintaining these, especially as we see more frequent flooding,” Brainard said. “The use of a wetland is kind of a sponge for some of that water becomes all the more important.”

With the annexation, the city isn’t just looking to protect nature. According to Brainard, Rock Island is very limited in how and where it can expand.

“While it might seem a little odd for us to take a large amount of wetlands,” Brainard said. “Those wetlands actually grow out our municipal border, and bring it closer to other properties along the Andalusia Road corridor, which have more traditional development potential.”

While there is no formal agreement with any groups just yet, the Nahant Marsh is directly across the river from the new patch of the city. Its director, Brian Ritter, said they are also interested in seeing this area preserved.