A Fort Dodge landmark received a 25th anniversary gift Tuesday.
The refurbished Oleson Park Zoo walkway was rededicated by the members of the Fort Dodge Noon Kiwanis and the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance. The walkway, originally dedicated in 1987, was restored last month.
"It had deteriorated quite a bit since 1987, so it was time for it to be refurbished," Sandy Darling, Noon Kiwanis president, said. "We're happy to be able to raise enough money and get it done."
With the support of community members and businesses, the Noon Kiwanis was able to raise the funds needed to restore the walkway for better public use, Darling said.
"It's ready to use for all kinds of children and families in the community," she said. "We're so happy to get this walkway completed."
Not only did Noon Kiwanis help raise the funds, its members helped with labor.
"We worked at the zoo a couple of times to clean up the zoo area. And we also worked to move dirt around the edges of the walkway," Darling said.
At an official ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday, Jim Kramer, Fort Dodge Noon Kiwanis Club member, thanked contributors Orville O'Connell, who died in January 2011, and his wife Joyce O'Connell, who was present.
"The Friends of the Oleson Park Zoo is really the legacy of the O'Connell family to Fort Dodge," Kramer said. "If it hadn't been for Orville O'Connell, and we know Orville wouldn't have gotten anything without Joyce's help, none of this would have come to pass."
The O'Connells became involved after one of the zoo's deer was killed inside the enclosure, Kramer said.
"It just happened that at that point Orville and Joyce were raising deer at the time, so they agreed to donate a deer to the park to replace the one that had been killed. That really got Kiwanis involved," he said. "Out of that came the walkway project."
Not only was a walkway needed, the zoo had become dilapidated, Kramer said, and was in need of being restored.
"We had too many deer that were not in good condition, we had a few goats and sheep, and not much to see," he said. "Orville had the vision that if we got an organization together, we could really improve this and make it a family destination."
Eleven years ago, the Friends of the Oleson Park Zoo went to the City Council, proposing that the city donate the animals and turn over operations to the group. The group could then improve the quality of the animals and the zoo itself for the benefit of the community. The ordinance was passed.
"From that point forward, Joyce and Orville were primarily the ones that went to animal sales, found the animals," Kramer said. "And from a collection of a few animals we now have one of the largest collections of very small and unique, exotic animals that you can find anywhere."
Kramer said he was proud of what they all had accomplished together.
"It was heartening to come out here and see a young family with children and a stroller, enjoying this facility and that wouldn't be possible if Kiwanis hadn't built that walkway in the first instance and now reconstructed," he said. "This couldn't happen without the citizens of Fort Dodge, and we're grateful to have this improvement."
Darling, also, was pleased by the end results of their efforts and the community's generosity, she said.
"We can see kids out on the walkway, and there have been baby strollers and people using it. It's great," she said. "We are a group of volunteers dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time. It just takes a little time and effort to get some of these things done."