BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Prep work on a new park on the east of town honoring fallen soldiers has begun.
After raising nearly $52,000 to purchase the land for the Fort Madison Memorial Park in 2015, enough money has been donated and procured to start prepping the land for seeding.
Andy Andrews, of the North Lee County Historical Society, said the project will ultimately cost close to $500,000 when all is said and done, but for now efforts are to replace the surface with soil for a grass bed.
“We’re gonna take 8 to 10″ of dirt out of there. There’s some area where gravel could be 24″ thick. We want to take enough out of there so we can haul in fresh soil and move in grass,” he said.
“The state archeologists don’t want us going any deeper than a foot, so when we start digging for trees and lighting we’ll have to watch that carefully.”
A large tractor and electricians were seen at the site today clearing the surface of the park which will be located on the former Sheaffer parking lot between 4th and 5th Streets, and Avenue G and Hwy 61. Workers had pulled old parking lot poles loose and tipped them to the ground so they could be cut off at the base and hauled away.
Andrews said he hopes by the end of the week all the scraped surface and fixtures will be out and hauled away.
“The main thing now is to haul away the residue from Sheaffer parking lot and get new dirt hauled in,” he said. “We should have 7 or 8 trucking firms that will bring dump trucks in later this week. Hopefully by Saturday it will be all hauled out. Tomorrow (Thursday), you will probably see a lot more action.”
The group is looking to raise an additional $20,000 to finish this phase of the project and Andrews says he’s hopeful that by the fall the new park is underway. Fundraising letters are set to go out in the mail in the next few days.
The plan is to finish the park by the fall, raising money for walkways, benches, a flag pole and lighting will begin in 2018. Then in 2019, adding interpretive signage to tell the history of the Fort, the battlefield and soldiers that gave their lives and were buried around the Fort grounds.
There is a tentative plan to move the 1909 reproduction chimney to the site and in 2020 possibly build an Interpretive Center and theatre on the grounds.
Landscaping plans include 22 native trees to honor the 22 soldiers said to have lost their life in the battle, perennial beds with 22 perennials in each bed, a native American memorial area, several benches, a sitting area with a possible welcome center/interpretive center.
The NLCHS is a 501(c)(3) tax-deductible organization.