Turner Park: Fitness for All Ages project moving along, fundraising efforts underway

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The Turner Park: Fitness for All Ages project will have four phases, including a track, nature-inspired playground, updated sports field and shelter and, eventually, a splash pad.

This boat will be outfitted as the new concession stand at Turner Park. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

Riley Whitney (left) and Brenna Boland work on tutus for Fridays dance marathon, which will be held at the McGregor Center from 4-9 p.m. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Plans for McGregor’s Turner Park: Fitness for All Ages project are progressing and fundraising efforts are underway.

“There has been over a year and a half of meetings and talking. Now, things are starting to happen,” shared Janet Hallberg, who’s a member of the Turner Park improvement committee.

In late spring of 2013, a small tornado hit McGregor, damaging Turner Park, which is located on the edge of town, between the MFL MarMac McGregor Center and Great River Care Center/Turner Pointe Assisted Living. 

The city received insurance money for the damage. However, more important than the funds was the push the incident gave the community to make some needed upgrades at the park.

McGregor had considered creating a track at Turner Park back in 2000, recalled city administrator Lynette Sander, “but since we had the insurance money, it prompted us to get the ball rolling.”

Following a community survey, the park improvement committee developed a four-phase plan for Turner Park, beginning with the creation of a one-fourth mile track around the park’s perimeter. The track will have an asphalt surface and stretch 10 feet across.

Phase II will include a nature-inspired playground, complete with a jungle gym, swing set, fake logs and rocks to crawl on/in and several individual play components on which to ride or spin. Another feature is a large swing that resembles a tire swing but has a base to stand on, allowing multiple kids to swing back and forth. Another piece of equipment, a rotating dish, is shaped like a satellite and allows children to spin with an up and down effect as if traveling on a modern merry-go-round.

Through the survey, many respondents expressed an interest in tying nature into the improvements, so the playground will feed off that, Hallberg said.

In the third phase, picnic area and field improvements are the priority. The football practice field will be realigned, better utilizing the space. One goal post will be moved and another added. The baseball field will see improvements as well. For the picnic area, the shelter will be reworked, the cement pad extended and grills added. In addition, parking on Turner Street will be improved.

One aspect of this phase, a new concession stand, is already in the works. Marc Rhodes of the Holiday Shores Motel in McGregor recently donated a boat-shaped building, which was built to be a food kiosk, that will be used as the concession stand. It’s currently sitting on a trailer at the park.

It will add a unique touch to the park, said Hallberg.

“We also wanted to try and tie in with the river since we are a river town,” she added.

Sander said the McGregor Clan Lions Club has made the concession stand one of its projects. Funds from the club’s recent rummage sale, as well as proceeds from a current Flower Power seed fundraiser, will go toward equipping the stand with appliances, shelving and counter space.

The fourth phase is set to create the biggest splash.

“What everyone is really excited about is the splash pad,” said Hallberg of the recreation area, which will spray, rain, dump and pour water on people through nozzles both in the ground and in brightly-colored water features shaped like fire hydrants, flowers, fountains and trees. There will be no standing water and operation can be regulated, eliminating the need for lifeguards.

“It’s safer and easier than having a pool and it’s not going to run all the time,” she continued. “It will be a big draw and will be a good size for this community.”

Once more work on the first few phases takes place and more funding is raised, Hallberg said community members will be able to vote on the features they’d like to see included in the splash pad.

“We want to get people excited and involved,” she said.

Other future additions to Turner Park will include a shade structure near the splash pad, a recycled tire play area and recycled benches and picnic tables.

“We’ll keep adding pieces of equipment because there’s so much space,” Hallberg said, noting that fitness stations may also be placed around the track, allowing people utilizing the park to get more of a workout while their kids play nearby.

The total project cost is estimated at nearly $195,000 with contingencies included.

The McElroy Trust pledged $10,000 toward the playground equipment if that amount can be matched, said Sander. Memorial donations have come in as well. Donation cans have been placed in various businesses around town and other fundraisers have been planned, including a dance marathon put on by the McGregor Center’s student council, the Stu Crew.

The dance marathon, which has the theme “Rebuilding Our Park One Dance at a Time,” will take place at the McGregor Center on Friday, April 24, from 4 to 9 p.m. The public is welcome to attend.

“Dancing goes on for five hours,” explained Stu Crew member Josie Kleinow, who was busy last week creating tutus for the event with fellow members Riley Whitney, Brenna Boland, Hanna Dickman and Chloe Diehl. “At the beginning, we’ll teach everyone a dance, then, every hour, they’ll perform it.”

All middle school students have been challenged to get pledges from community members for the event, which has a small admission fee.

Aside from dancing, bean bags, shuffleboard, arts and crafts and other activities will be available too, added Boland.

Tutus, T-shirts, can koozies and other items will be available for purchase.

The Stu Crew’s goal is to raise $2,500, then hopefully get a matching contribution from a local corporate business.

The girls said the Stu Crew felt fundraising for Turner Park was a good idea because of the school’s use of the park.

“The school uses that park more than most,” Whitney said.

“The guys use it for football and we need a track here too,” Dickman added.

Boland said they also want to help out the rest of the community.

“All the money goes toward a community park. It is free to use not just for the school but the whole community,” she said.

Sander said the committee’s discussions with the school district about Turner Park have been encouraging.

“We want to work with the school because we want it to be usable for them,” said Hallberg, adding that Great River Care Center has also been considered during the planning stages. Residents and their families will have good access to get out on the track and enjoy the park’s other features, she said.

Hallberg said there are four donation levels: $50-$499 is bronze, $500-$999 is silver, $1,000-$2,999 is gold and over $3,000 is platinum.

“We’re a smaller community, so we want to give as many people as possible recognition for helping out,” she said. “We couldn’t do it without them. It’s a community project.”

“The enthusiasm we’re experiencing is refreshing,” Sander said. “You don’t always get that.”

Hallberg said people have been coming up to her and asking how they can help. As things progress, she said more volunteers will be needed to help with construction and putting things together, bringing the vision for the park to fruition.

“There’s been a lot of interest and excitement,” Hallberg said, noting that it will be nice to see the park utilized as it was when she was a kid. “I grew up at that park. It will be nice to relive the past and bring some of that back. It’s such an awesome space. It’s just not being utilized.”

Turner Park was dedicated at its current location in 1986 after being originally located on the riverfront for many years. Hallberg said the city wants to keep the family—which dates back to grain merchant and athlete George Turner, who came to McGregor in 1870—involved.

“We want them to see that it’s not just fading away,” she said.

With improvements, Hallberg said she hopes Turner Park can host more youth rec events and family get-togethers. Sander said the space will be great for larger community events.

“All the parks have something different to offer, and Triangle Park is nice, but sometimes there’s not enough space,” she said.

With the river not always cooperating, Hallberg said Turner Park will give tourists and people from other area communities another reason to visit McGregor. It might also help convince families to move into town.

“This shows the good that can come out of a small tornado,” Sander said. 

Work at Turner Park will begin with the concession stand, then progress to the playground, which has already been ordered, and the track.

“We hope to get the first three phases done in one sweep,” Sander said. “I’d like to see that done by next spring.”

“If we get going with fundraising and pledges, we should be able to do that,” Hallberg added.

Hallberg said community members should be prepared for some exciting fundraising activities. If people would like to stay updated on the Turner Park: Fitness for All Ages project, they can visit the project’s Facebook page.

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