Park Upgrade: Creating a New Destination
Mega-10 Park in Marshalltown, Iowa
Mega-10 Park in Marshalltown, Iowa, was slated for a playground upgrade in 2017. It is located in the center of Marshalltown and is adjacent to the Family Aquatic Center, the YMCA/YWCA, the softball complex and skatepark, as well as being positioned directly on the seven-mile Linn Creek Recreational Trail. It is also near downtown shopping and the Fisher Community Art Center.
Annemarie Selness, hired as the Park and Recreation director in April 2016, said that she "… wanted something new and unique for this centrally located park." She added, "I wanted to make Mega-10 Park a 'showplace' and 'destination park' for Marshalltown, engaging local and out-of-town visitors to make Marshalltown a place to spend time biking, hiking, using the skatepark, playing on the new state-of-the-art playground equipment, discovering enchanting gardens and swimming at the aquatic center."
Marshalltown has achieved all of that and more, and Mega-10 park was recently selected as one of the Best Places to Visit in Marshalltown.
The park's goal is to influence and empower people of all ages, abilities and demographics in Marshalltown and Marshall County to choose healthier lifestyles. The county health rankings for Marshall County show that Marshall County ranked 88th for health overall in Iowa. The most pressing issues in the county have been identified as obesity and lack of exercise relating to consequences of elevated cardiovascular disease and diabetes with more of this being observed in children. The main problem is to find a way to engage the area's diverse population in inexpensive health and fitness options that they could do on their own, while having fun and interacting with their friends.
The upgraded and new playground equipment selected has a train theme in keeping with Marshalltown's long association with the railroad industry. New equipment included a 130-foot-long seated Gravity Rail zipline (the first in Iowa), new playground equipment complete with slides, climbers and activity stations, a small climbing wall and a children's fitness area with numerous stations for physical activity. Also available at this park is Biba—a mobile game system that blends digital play with active outdoor play and imaginative fun, connecting kids to physical activities available at this playground.
In addition, a Children's Discovery Garden was designed by City Horticulturist Kristin Titus. This garden was planned with activities for children, plants in various areas emphasizing the five senses, a reading nook and little library, and a pergola with benches for reading or viewing the garden.
A colorful children's art picket fence with almost 400 pickets was painted. Each student at the Woodbury School under the direction of Maggie Parks, art teacher, got to design and paint their own picket for the garden. Anel Garza, school principal and Park and Recreation advisory board member, was kind enough to allow her students time for this large task. The "Paint a Picket Day" turned into several weeks as student's added new colors and layers of paint.
A new garden was also planted around the historic caboose located at the park. The local National Association of Veteran and Retired Railway (NAVRR) workers collaborated with local paint company, Strands, to select the appropriate colors of paint to restore the luster of this beautiful old railroad car.
The Iowa Valley Leadership class of 2017 chose the Mega-10 Park upgrade as their class project for the year. The 28 class participants raised funds, did marketing, hosted a trivia night fundraiser and helped install the children's garden. Other fundraising for the park included a grant from the Martha Ellen Tye Foundation for $150,000, City of Marshalltown CIP funding, and $15,000 from the Mega-10 park board of directors.
Other fundraising included selling garden pickets for $100 each. These pickets painted in a tan color had wood routed letters with a name or business on them painted in green. There were more than 100 monetary donors for this project and bench plaques were provided for donors who gave more than $1,000, as well as butterfly-shaped plaques for on a donation board, and publicity in the local Chamber News brochure.
The huge outpouring of support for this project was astounding! With children painting pickets, more than 400 people volunteered time for this amazing upgrade to Mega-10 Park.
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