Beautification efforts getting contagious


It seems as though everyone has the bug to work outside, despite the wicked heat of the past few weeks.

In moving about the community my eyes are drawn now to the work going on throughout Fort Madison. It’s made me even jump in the mix.

On Saturday, the Harmony Bible Church people were adding some whitewash paint to the six foot walls along the alleys from 6th to 10th Streets between Avenues G and F.

Not just that, but men, women, and children were pulling weeds and cleaning up debris in the five-block stretch. It’s God’s work, Dana Huppert said.

Well, maybe that and maybe it’s just a contagion that is taking hold.

The Fort Madison Beautification Committee is regularly, behind the energy of City Councilwoman Rebecca Bowker, making their way around the community picking up trash, not to mention the modernization of the pocket park in the 800 block of Avenue G.

But there are also private efforts underway to pretty up the city. A historic home on Avenue E on the north side of Central Park has been sitting half-sided, half not for half a decade, but now progress at a very high rate of speed is taking place. It’s almost worth a park-and-watch.

The apartment home at 6th and F is getting a full makeover and is starting to look like a productive part of the neighborhood. We’ve got streets being repaired, highways being replaced, parks being cleaned up, and a regular spigot of community resources being showered down on those doing the work.

Fort Madison Football, Inc. just finished up a rehab of the home side grandstands at Richmond Stadium. As part of that work, again many donations of time, money, and resources went into not just the grandstand, but also to landscaping, fencing, and the ticket booth.

The Rotary keeps close tabs on Central Park, the Old Settlers Association keeps their park in tip top shape and several groups including Fort Madison Kiwanis are starting to take a bite out of Ivanhoe Park where a lot of organizations utilize the P.O.R.T. trail connector to route 5K runs that make me feel like an old fat man.

With the Tri-State Rodeo week just seven days away, the city has set its focus on putting a little makeup on the city’s face.

But the drive around town shows the progress. New, environmentally-friendlier parking lots are part of four different parking areas including City Hall. The Pen City Parking lot at 8th and Avenue H now has the city’s first-ever charging stations for electric vehicles.

A new banner was hung up over Avenue G welcoming visitors to historic Fort Madison, and a family is very quietly rehabbing a former bank building in the Santa Fe district across from Hy-Vee.

This is a momentum we haven’t seen before, but is much welcome.

At Ivanhoe last week, Kiwanis and Doherty Baseball Academy held a work morning and picked up branches, weeded and started edging the trail sidewalks. That work will eventually, when it cools off a bit, lead to painting and hopefully replacing the historic sign on the park’s south side that has rotted through.

I actually took a manual edger to some of the sidewalks there last week. Lee County Auditor Denise Fraise brought those over on a request for “edgers”. I was thinking more of the lines of the Tim “The Toolman” Taylor’s high octane, motorized supercharged, you-can-ride-that-thing, edger. Mike Hellige showed up with that one.

If you haven’t used a manual pole edger before, just give up your regular workout routine, put on some gloves and work that thing for an hour or so. It’s a full-on core workout that leaves the arms, chest, and core burning and the heart pumping. I think the track can wait for a couple weeks while I work out with Fraise’s edger.

The park district has come up with a five-year plan looking at long-term, intermediate, and short-term fixes and people are taking stock of those plans and jumping in to help. There’s the ongoing debate on what to do with the poor fix on the Victory Park tennis courts. Some have said turn them into pickle ball courts, others want them repaired and playable. Some want the whole thing down. But the energy is in the conversation.

And energy is what we’re seeing even in the midst of a heat snap. Things are supposed to cool off starting this weekend with some needed rain on Sunday.

But let’s hope the momentum doesn’t cool off. Good on you, Fort Madison.

By the way, Kiwanis has a workday typically the third Saturday of the month at Ivanhoe starting at 8 a.m. Feel free to come out and join us. You can check our Facebook page at Fort Madison Kiwanis for additional details. We try to keep it under 90 minutes – because we want you to come back, but that’s Beside the Point.

Chuck Vandenberg is co-owner and editor of Pen City Current and can be reached at

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