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While the threat of COVID-19 brought indoor gatherings to a standstill, local parks, trails and lakes saw an uptick in traffic.
With this newfound appreciation for outdoor spaces, the Creston Parks and Recreation Board discussed current projects and upcoming events that were scheduled for later in the year and the potential bond for the McKinley Lake Restoration Project during its regular board meeting Tuesday night held in a shop building at 201 S. Vine St.
Festivals and functions
The ongoing pandemic has brought an aura of uncertainty around possible events at the park, but the board decided that the Fall Festival and Party in the Park events could still be held with limitations, with board member John Kawa noting the community interest in the event.
“This is a boring summer for kids,” said Kawa. “They need something to do.”
The Fall Festival was originally scheduled for July 25, and typically features events such as a fishing competition, fireworks and inflatables. The board decided to continue planning the event while setting limitations and following social distancing guidelines. While the pandemic has caused planning and sponsorships to be delayed as well, there is confidence that the festival can be pulled off.
“I think we can put a budget together,” said Rich Paulsen. “I think that most of the people I have for sponsors for this are pretty well into it.”
The festival would instead be held Aug. 1, and features such as inflatables will not be present due to sanitation concerns and lack of renters. The board also needs to secure sponsors and someone to host the fireworks display.
Additionally, Party in the Park, scheduled for Aug. 15, will be held on this date, so long as there are no further restrictions introduced. The show features two bands and is an annual fundraiser for the board. While financial concerns are a factor, Kawa assured the board that around 80% of the usual sponsors have already given their support to the event.
“I’ve talked to a majority of our sponsors,” said Kawa. “I’ve had a couple of them say they might not be able to do it the way they did before, I had a couple of them say they would if we decided to do it.”
The biggest holdup would be volunteers for setup and the event itself, with around 12 additional volunteers needed to assure the event’s success.
The board discussed the finalization of their bond vote for the McKinley Lake Restoration Project. The $2 million bond was on the ballot last year but failed to pass by 45 votes. The board said public comment indicates that this was in part due to a ‘loaded ballot,’ as there were also bond issues for the Gibson Memorial Library and the pool restoration project.
“I think this is as good as a chance we’ve got,” said Paulsen. “What’s going on right now? What’s everybody doing? They’re camping, they’re fishing, they’re walking. They’re out there doing stuff.”
The board previously met with a representative from the Department of National Resources in February, when the DNR discussed a potential partnership as part of the DNR Lake Restoration Program, which would provide the project with the remaining funds needed if the bond issue were to pass.
Kawa said that he had been in contact with the representative and was informed that due to COVID-19, they were currently not seeking new projects. However, the DNR will continue with more projects in the near future and intends to uphold their promise to provide engineering if the bond issue passes, regardless of a partnership.
“Basically, we have to pass this bond before the DNR is going to (start to) cough up,” said Kawa. “The city’s got to show they want it. That’s what we have to have first.”
Mayor Gabe Carroll was present at the meeting, as the board was considering bringing the bond issue before the Union County Board of Supervisors to split the bond between the county and Creston. Carroll said he was approached about the concept earlier this year, but when the pandemic started he was unable to continue the pursuit.
While this would take some of the burden off of Creston residents, it could cause strain with residents throughout the county, with some board members showing concerns that this could result in the vote failing again.
“Will that make it tougher?” said Paulsen. “If you just make it a city bond, you’re dealing with the city people. If you make it a county, you have to get all the county votes, and I don’t know if the farming economy is very cheery.”
The board approved to continue with the bond issue, believing it may be now or never given the other community entities who wish to pursue a similar route.
In other parks and rec board news, the board:
• discussed the addition of six new lights on the walking trail. These would cost around $3,000 a piece. The poles are taller than the ones currently on different portions of the trail, standing at 20 feet high, featuring solar powered, LED lights. The height and power of the lights allow the poles to be spaced out further. The pads for the lights will be poured later this week.
• discussed ‘finishing touches’ on the walking trail, such as a retaining wall, an underground pipe and a handicap ramp leading from the trail to a shelter. The project will cost an estimated $65,000, with $33,000 of the project currently accounted for.