An overflow crowd gathered Jan. 6 in the Council Chambers of City Hall. Many brought hand-lettered signs protesting potential action by the council and many stepped to the microphone to very passionately tell their council members of their concerns.
On the agenda that night was a public hearing on a resolution for the council to accept an offer from The Overland Group, a commercial developer out of Birmingham, Alabama, to purchase the northernmost 1.25 acres of East Twin Park to build a new, larger Dollar General store on the 1100 block of Superior Street.
A total of 28 people addressed the city council during the meeting. Not one member of the public spoke in favor of the proposal. In the end, the council members voted unanimously to reject the purchase offer from Overland Group.
Following the council meeting, area citizens started to get organized. Many volunteered to help in planning upgrades to the park and other stepped forward with donations to help the city make those upgrades happen.
Lindsay Henderson, community vitality director and Darcy Swon, development director for Enhance Hamilton County Foundation, met soon after the public hearing. According to Swon, the city of Webster City and the foundation had previously discussed establishing a fund a to benefit area parks and recreation areas.
“As a result of the public hearing, we decided to get this going,” Swon said.
Coincidentally, the day after the meeting, an anonymous donor stepped forward to establish a fund through Enhance Hamilton County for people to make contributions to whatever projects would move forward at East Twin Park or other community parks.
The fund was set up so that donors could specify where they funds would be used. Donations can be directed toward any park or recreational facility owned by the City of Webster City, Swon said.
“But it cannot be earmarked for something specific at that park because we don’t know what the long-term plans are for the parks,” she said. “Our job at the foundation is make sure that the original intent of the donor is carried through.”
Since the Parks and Recreation Commission oversees the decisions made for area parks, with city approval, the commission will ultimately be responsible for distribution of the funds to projects.
The Friends of Webster City Parks and Recreation is the name of the new fund. Checks can be made out to Enhance Hamilton County Foundation or to the fund name, according to Swon, with any specific park designated on the memo line of the check. The donations can be mailed or dropped off to EHCF at 501 Bank St., Webster City, or can use the online donation option at the EHCF website. There is 3.5 percent fee online for credit card processing.
“So, when Parks and Rec are looking at East Twin Park, they can pull up a spreadsheet and see ‘oh, we have this much earmarked in charitable donations that can help with any shortfall with available budgeted funds,” Swon explained.
The fund has already reached nearly $10,000 with most of the donations designated for East Twin Park.
Anastacia Iverson, 14, a member of the Youth Advisory Council, started a GoFundMe page following the public hearing. The fund, “East Twin Park Is Saved, Now Let’s Revitalize It!” has raised $2,375 to date.
“That fund is great for those who want to make a quick donation online,” Swon said. “There is a 2.9 percent transaction fee and a $.30 fee per transaction.”
Swon said that when Iverson is ready to close the account out, she will present a check to Parks and Recreation which will then be combined into the EHCF foundation fund.
“It will all end up in one pot,” she said.
“I think it’s awesome that a 14-year-old set up this fund,” Swon said. “It gives people a couple options for making donations.”
There is also a group that has grown out of the public meeting – Webster City Twin Parks Revitalization Committee. The Facebook group was developed to share ideas and to offer volunteer assistance for projects, according to Larry Flaws, interim director of parks and grounds.
Flaws said that decisions about changes or upgrades at the park would still go through the Parks and Rec Commission, but if groups wish to do things like a cleanup day at the park, the city can help with supplies.
“If they want to get a group together and do some stuff, we can provide the materials – clippers, rakes or trash bags,” he said.
“Having a citizen’s group that’s willing to help is great,” said Lindsay Henderson, community vitality director, adding that the group could provide vital help in to raise awareness and help promote fundraising once the Parks and Rec Commission decides how to move forward. She pointed to the master plan that was developed by a University of Iowa last year which outlines ideas for improving and upgrading Webster City’s parks and recreational facilities. A link to the plan can be found on the homepage of the city’s website, www.webstercity.com. Some of the ideas listed for East Twin Park include beautification of the skate the park, expansion of the shelter house, updated playground equipment with obstacle/agility course or therapeutic fitness for seniors, new basketball court backboards and a splashpad.
“From the community vitality perspective, I don’t think we’ve always looked a parks and recreation as an economic development initiative, but it really is,” Henderson said. “Quality of life is one of my primary areas of focus and parks and rec investment in those amenities is an essential component of that.”
Swon urged those considering a fund raiser to also contact the commission.
“By going through Parks and Rec, they will end up getting all the information they need for a successful fundraiser,” she said. “We really want to maximize people’s volunteerism and philanthropy.
“We’re all in this together,” she said.
View this article as it originally appeared in the Daily Freeman-Journal.
Last modified: January 27, 2020