By Sara Jordan-Heintz, Times Republican
Marshalltown Parks and Recreation exists to create recreational opportunities in the community and maintain and preserve public parks and facilities. But sometimes its budget doesn’t allow for extra amenities that may be beneficial to the various neighborhoods. With help from local service clubs, Parks & Rec is now able to purchase three wheelchair swings, in addition to the one that was already in the process of being acquired.
“We had some money for Peterson Park to get one of those swings, but not the others,” said Parks and Rec Director Geoff Hubbard. “It’s great these service clubs are stepping up to help provide things for the parks. A lot of their mission statements have to do with kids and the community. I really applaud them for taking what was just going to be one swing at Peterson and expanding that to different areas of Marshalltown. They cost about $3,200 each.”
He said the efforts began after a conversation with Debi Estabrook, who is part of the Marshalltown Evening Lions.
“Our member, Sandy Thomae, thought of a handicap swing after she visited a park in Cedar Rapids in August with her grandchildren and saw one at a park. After Sandy asked about having a swing in Marshalltown, I called P&R and talked with Jeff,” Estabrook said.
The conversation led to talks about adding wheelchair swings to parks in other areas of town where the need for them had been voiced.
“Our club then took on the task of selling candy and nuts to raise funds to purchase one of the swings,” she said.
He noted the swing the Marshalltown Evening Lions will pay to purchase would be installed in Anson Park.
The PM Kiwanis, which has since folded, wanted to use its funds to pay for a wheelchair swing for Kiwanis Park.
Hubbard said that park is the recipient of a new basketball court, pickleball court and volleyball court, which consumed the budget. It does have outdoor instruments, which may appeal to the vision impaired.
Then in October, the Matins Kiwanis presented Parks & Rec with a check for $3,200 to put a wheelchair swing at Mega 10 Park.
He pointed out that with Peterson Park located on the north side of town, Kiwanis on the south side, and heavily used Anson and Mega 10 parks in the center, those in wheelchairs will have more options for fun time.
“So hopefully by next Memorial Day weekend, four different parks will have these swings,” he added. “We have to pour some concrete slabs for the swings and install some foam material in case anyone fell — for a softer landing area.”
Deciding what equipment goes in which park comes down to seeking input from the neighborhoods.
“We also looked at our 2018 Master Plan for the parks,” he said. “One of the overall things people wanted was better accessibility. A lot of our parks don’t have sidewalks, there are surfacing issues and security issues.”
He said lighting has been added in some places, as well as better signage throughout the parks.
“Right now, we’re planning to touch one park every year (for) the next couple of years — updating the playground equipment and accessibility to them. Sidewalks, signage and lighting are probably a third of the cost of all our projects. That doesn’t leave a whole lot left to provide for the fun stuff,” Hubbard noted. “We are looking at improvements for the hearing impaired, too, and more things that would provide tactile (stimulation).”
To learn more, Hubbard may be reached at: [email protected]. Visit the service clubs on social media to learn more about their fundraising opportunities.