Sapphire Lake Development Suspended: A Lost Opportunity for The Region


We are sad to announce that after more than two years of hard work and cooperation by many, the Sapphire Lake development has been halted. Despite initial pledges of support from all landowners stating they would not stand in the way of the project moving forward, securing the necessary agreements has proven impossible.

Out of 21 landowners, 19 agreed to sign land sale option agreements. Regrettably, two prominent landowners have changed their minds and have chosen not to participate, exercising their right to withhold their properties.

Their decision not only impacts the project but also the entire region, which stood to benefit immensely. The landowners involved were poised to receive nearly $35 million—approximately three times the current market value—for their land.

This project had garnered strong support from the State of Iowa, who pledged $10 million towards the public portion of the project, recognizing its potential to foster rural sustainability and state growth. Poweshiek County and the City of Grinnell were equally supportive, pledging nearly $10 million and $17.5 million, respectively.

In addition to stabilizing the local economy, the project would have created all-inclusive public recreational amenities with parks, trails, fishing, campgrounds, improved water quality, and other environmental enhancements. As a public lake, the state and local governments would have supplied law enforcement, fire and rescue services to the lake and surrounding area. The lake project checked all the quality-of-life boxes our state is promoting.

A third-party economist forecasted that over the next 20 years, the Sapphire Lake development could have driven over $600 million in economic activity for our region.

The positive impacts the area stands to lose are profound. This project promised to help reverse the decline in the area’s school system’s financial situation, increase the area property tax base nearly $400 million, stabilize the population, and workforce.

Unfortunately, the dreams of a revitalized region with new opportunities for growth, have been put on hold indefinitely. The chance to transform the region, to bring about lasting economic stability and enhance the quality of life for the citizens, has been lost due to two landowners who have changed their minds and do not want to participate in the project.

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