Monument Returns to Downtown Cedar Rapids on Flood Anniversary

By Dave Franzman, Reporter

The new Lady Liberty statue is seen following the rededication ceremony on the First Avenue Bridge on Monday, June 13, 2011. (David Scrivner/SourceMedia Group News)

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By Aaron Hepker

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — A small, but symbolic, milestone returned to its rightful place on this third anniversary of the crest of the Cedar River flooding in 2008.

When the Cedar River hit its highest point of 31.12 feet on June 13, 2008, the rushing water tore away an eight-foot-tall replica of the Statue of Liberty from its pedestal base. But Lady Liberty was back on Monday as city leaders noted yet another small step on the road to recovery.

The Boy Scouts of America donated the original statue to the city in 1950. Cedar Rapids was one of 102 cities nationwide to receive a statue as part of a scout “strengthen the arm of liberty” campaign in the late 1940’s. Jan Podzimek was a 16-year-old then who remembered watching the original dedication 61 years ago. And when the flood took it away in 2008, she missed it.

“I wondered where she was, if she’d ever show up again,” Podzimek said.

The statue stood quietly for decades in Greene Square Park in Cedar Rapids until the city moved it to a riverfront location on the First Avenue Bridge in 2003. Volunteers spent approximately 300 hours restoring it after the flood damage. The statue was literally fished out of the river after it was torn from its base.

Andy Goodrich, a retired sheet metal worker, was one of a small group who did the work.

“We’re happy to do it,” Goodrich said adding “we had a good time doing it and we’re really proud to do it for the city.”

But this third anniversary of the flood peak also saw another community milestone along with the returned Lady Liberty statue. The city of Cedar Rapids has now passed the 1,000 mark in the voluntary buyout program for flood-damaged homes. After 17 months of buyouts, that is a long-term big deal although Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett still wishes it all could have happened faster.

“For some of the buyouts to stretch as long as it did, that’s put people in a financial bind,” Corbett said. “I’m just happy we can move forward and people can move on with their lives.”

The city has another 327 properties in the middle of the voluntary buyout process. And there is a big deadline coming up. Anyone wanting to participated has to say so by June 30, 2011.

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