BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison Park Board left Wednesday’s meeting with a little giddy up in their step.
During the regular meeting of the city’s Park, Recreation, and Dock Board, Mayor Matt Mohrfeld asked board members to think about how to reinvent themselves and take a hard look at the role of the board.
Board member Paul Wilkerson said the board would like to move toward that, but they’ve been looking for direction.
Mohrfeld then laid out the potential return to the board for investing the time and energy in formulating a plan to tackle issues in city parks.
He said groups like Rotary, Old Settler’s Association and the Fort Madison P.O.R.T. are examples of what can be done with planning and implementation.
“When you look at a comprehensive plan and it makes sense, you can stand behind that and you can see the value to invest.”
Mohrfeld said he’s challenging other boards and departments within the city to take a more comprehensive look at Fort Madison’s future.
He said the Park Board is uniquely situated to create an analysis and inventory of city park needs, moreso than the City Council is.
“What could the parks board do that the council can’t? You have the unique opportunity to be in a casual setting and put boots on the ground and do an asset analysis of parks,” he said.
“If this group was meeting at Victory Field, here’s some things we’d see. We’d see a baseball diamond that gets used for pick up games and it’s very nostalgic. We’d seen some old bathrooms that should have been torn down years ago. We’d see a tennis court that either needs to be repurposed, torn out, or made purposeful.”
The mayor said that adds another layer of passion to the city’s 5-year comprehensive plan as a whole. He said a well thought out plan would attract the council’s attention.
“This is exciting to me,” said board member Sue Pieper. “I want to do flip flops all over the room. We just need to get a plan and get moving.”
The improvements wouldn’t all have to be funded in the public sector, the mayor said.
“With a plan in place you can then pursue funding streams from grants, service organizations, and yes, the general fund,” he said.
When the City Council reviews the annual budget, Mohrfeld said it’s easy to swipe away projects when they have to find funds or other necessities.
“But when we have the park board championing a five-year plan that they’ve put some priority to, some thought to ,and some logic to – now it’s a little harder to sweep that aside,” he said.
He admitted that there would be funding shortfalls, but other revenue streams could help pick up where the city may have to leave off.
“What I’m looking for is empowering the parks board to use their love of parks to create a five-year plan that could be sold to council, the city, and to citizens, so we can move forward with park improvements with as many tools as are in the tool chest,” Mohrfeld said.
In other action, the board:
• set Oct. 24 at 8:30 a.m. as a tree planting session for 12 trees. Five trees will be planted at Rodeo Park and seven will be planted at Riverview Park as part of the Alliant Branches Out program. A demonstration will be held at the Old Lions Shelter House in Rodeo Park prior to volunteers fanning out to plant the trees.
• heard from Old Settler’s organization about the park’s annual Trick or Treat event in the park. The event will be held from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and then annual city’s Begger’s Night will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. with a recommendation of caution and adhering to health guidelines around the COVID crisis.
• heard from representatives of the Canine Corral about tree planting that will be taking place there in November. The group has about 125 trees being delivered the week of Nov. 9.
• heard a request to try to find a place for outside Pickleball courts in Fort Madison. A suggestion was made to repurpose the courts at Victory Field to allow play there.