Parks important part of local communities
By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor
Parks are a gathering place—where families meet, kids play ball and communities hold events. They can provide a venue to exercise or a place to relax and enjoy nature. They also attract visitors anxious to see the fall colors in Marquette and McGregor or the Butterfly Garden in Monona. They’re an integral part of daily life in local communities, reflecting a community’s values and interests.
“Schools, churches, businesses and parks. Those are four things that make the quality of life in a town, especially a small town,” said Maria Brummel, the head of McGregor’s Park Board. “When I go places, I like to see their parks. That’s how I evaluate a town.”
July is parks and recreation month, but parks are used in communities throughout the year by a wide range of people. They are often at the top of the list when city councils and other organizations get together to plan projects to improve their communities.
“Parks are one of the places you should start with,” said Brummel. “They’re something everyone can use, and you want to serve as many people as you can.”
Monona, Marquette and McGregor have all either recently undertaken or plan to undertake a park project.
In Monona, new playground equipment was installed last month at the city park.
Construction of a new riverfront shelter is in the works in Marquette. Additional car stalls and sidewalk, as well as the cement pad, are already complete, with shelter installation expected next month.
Marquette Mayor Norma Mason said the city promised to replace the shelter around 15 years ago, when the previous one was torn down.
“We’re now honoring that promise,” she said. “I’m proud of the city and dock commission in getting this going. It sure will be enjoyed for years to come.”
Green space has also been set aside on Timber Ridge for the eventual development a new park.
McGregor is planning improvements to Turner Park. Brummel said a group has met monthly, taking community feedback into consideration. Drawings have now been developed and they hope to begin with a walking path, which will be one-fourth mile long and eight feet wide.
With a splash pad and new playground equipment also among the proposed additions, Brummel hopes the park will see more use.
“The McGregor Achievement Club worked like crazy to buy and donate that land,” she said, adding that it was once a tobacco farm. “I’d like to see the park made into what it can be.”
Over the years, volunteers have played a large role in developing and maintaining the cities’ parks.
In Monona, Jim Langhus and other community members worked to develop the Butterfly Garden and Trail, one of the city’s major attractions.
“They like to show the butterflies and flowers, and people use the trail a fair amount,” said Pat Martin, a garden volunteer who got involved with the Earth Year 2000 Committee that worked to clean up the area. “I got on it because I like to garden and it seemed like a good area to get involved with in the community.”
Martin said all plantings are facilitated through donations and maintained by volunteers. However, more volunteers are always needed, so she encouraged people to contact her if they would like to help.
Marquette is involved with Trees Forever and has gained a Tree City designation from the Arbor Day Foundation, which has helped add beautiful trees to the parks.
“Trees are aesthetically pleasing and they provide shade and cover for homes and birds,” said Don Smalley, a tree board member.
Smalley said one park project the board, which also consists of Darren Matthew and Dennis Mason, did was to plant 11 trees on the west end of the city park.
“It was like a parking lot in a parking lot,” he said. “It will be awhile before they mature, but now it’s spruced up.”
Smalley said the city also provides the board with money to maintain and prune the trees.
“A lot of cities our size aren’t proactive about taking care of trees,” he explained. “Other [cities] just leave them and replant [if one fails].”
Like Smalley, Brummel also got involved because of trees. Thirty-four years ago, she said, McGregor took part in the Plant Iowa program and she helped plant many trees. When a spot opened on the park board shortly after, she joined. She, along with Dave Breitbach, Bonnie Troester and Diane Reisweber, now make up the board.
“The park board has changed the landscape of the city,” she said, recalling some of the projects that have been undertaken, including Dan Bickel’s work to transplant maple trees to Artesian Park and Triangle Park. “We’re hoping to keep those going as long as we can. They’re a real asset.”
Another thing close to Brummel’s heart is the Triangle Park fountain project, which took place in 1991-1992. Brummel said the McGregor Tourist Club wanted to do something to be remembered by, so she suggested restoring the fountain.
Brummel said she’s also been pleased with the creation of Eagle Determination Park and additions made to Peace Park, which was once bare and included no gazebo.
Additional help is always welcomed, Brummel said, so people can consider buying a Kwik Trip gas card, with a percentage going toward the parks, or they can provide input and ideas.
“We’re always willing to listen to constructive ideas,” she said. “The more who get involved, the better it makes the parks. It takes a positive attitude, and we have people like that who can get things done.”