Neighbors upset about plans for Cargill rail yard in Cedar Rapids

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - As residents from the Prairie Park community gathered Monday to discuss plans for a future rail yard in their neighborhood, their conversation was interrupted by a train traveling nearby.

But those plans have them concerned that trains won’t just interrupt their talks in the future, but their entire neighborhood.

“It’s beautiful, a nice, quiet, little, clean area," Jeremiah Kenny, who lives near the Prairie Park Fishery in southeast Cedar Rapids, said. "I can watch people over here enjoying the park all the time."

Cargill is looking to build that rail yard in the area to store up to 200 freight cars and move them between its corn milling plant about a mile away.

The manufacturer currently stores its rail cars at a Union Pacific yard near Cedar Lake. In a “Frequently Asked Questions” section on its website about the rail yard project, it said building its own yard will cut back on costs and reduce the number of trains traveling through downtown Cedar Rapids.

But about 40 Prairie Park neighbors came to Monday’s meeting because they don’t want that to happen in their neighborhood.

“My biggest concern with the railyard being here, that they’re going to make a lot of noise and disruption to this beautiful green space,” Kenny said.

On its website, Cargill said it planned to design the rail yard “in a way that has the least impact as possible on the location and the area surrounding it,” including constructing a 20-foot berm to block noise and turning lights off around 7 each night.

Though the company declined to say where exactly the rail yard would be built, in a statement to TV9, Cargill Cedar Rapids Corn Milling Facility Manager Dan Pulis said, "Cargill has purchase agreements for two farm parcels near the Cargill corn milling plant off Otis Road with the intent of building its proposed rail yard."

But last week, two signs were put up by the City of Cedar Rapids, informing neighbors of a public hearing related to the rail yard project on July 18. However, the signs did not say when the meeting would take place, and neighbors say both notices were gone a couple of days later.

That’s one of the reasons other residents said they don’t believe Cargill or the City of Cedar Rapids have been forthcoming about what’s going on.

“Cargill wants to build an environmental disaster next to my house," Rick Stanek, area resident, said. "Not one person has knocked on my door and told me that’s what they want to do."

Pulis said in the statement, “Cargill is committed to operating responsibly and transparently. We've hosted two community meetings to date to listen to neighbors' concerns and have addressed them accordingly. A third community meeting is planned to discuss the new, proposed location.”

However, Stanek, Kenny, and other neighbors said they believe there are better places to build that won’t ruin their neighborhood.

"The ideal outcome is to put that railyard right next to Cargill,” Stanek said. “I want them to succeed in business, but do it another way, in a different place."

The City of Cedar Rapids declined an interview request for this story.