BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Area residents will be able to get an up-close look at the improvements in the Pocket Park in the middle of downtown Fort Madison Thursday afternoon.
The Fort Madison Beautification Foundation, formed in 2020, will be hosting a gathering at the park to highlight the improvements the group has made over the past year and half.
The foundation is a non profit organization dedicated to improving the community one small project at a time and assumed ownership of the Park located in the 800 block of Avenue G.
City Councilwoman Rebecca Bowker has been spearheading the effort and said the space is now a quaint gathering place that is speckled with greenery and seating.
“What was missing was broadband connectivity,” she said.
The foundation took advantage of the Governor’s Urban Revitalization plan to increase broadband in rural areas throughout Iowa. The COVID 19 pandemic amplified the need for free wifi for school, work and personal reasons.
On Thursday May 13th from 4 to 6 p.m. the foundation is hosting a party to kick off the free wifi for our downtown area and introduce the park to new visitors. The event will include free music and beverages.
The park was originally owned by a Self-Sustaining Municipal Improvement District (SSMID) and then by Fort Madison Main Street. When those two groups folded, the park was transferred to the newly-created foundation in 2020.
“We knew it had some challenges but we wanted to make that a priority,” Bowker said Tuesday.
“Part of our commitment was to bring more people to the downtown space and progressive communities across the country have been using WIFI to attract visitors so we went that direction.”
The foundation was able to secure a $7,000 grant as part of the urban revitalization program to help secure WIFI in the park with a match of about $5,000.
Other improvements have included a new purgola, refinished park benches, additional trash cans, and landscaping enhancements.
“We wanted to take little steps that made a big impact,” Bowker said.
She said downtowns are heart of rural America and the foundation thought the park could be complimentary to any progress that would take place.
“Our foundation has been thrilled to see the level of commitment that has been, and continues to come to downtown Fort Madison and we hope to see that continue,” Bowker said.
“But we just don’t want to focus on downtown. Our goals are to reach out to the whole community, but funding and resources are always a challenge.”
In the case of inclement weather the event will be rescheduled.