RENWICK - The community of Renwick will soon have a new and improved place for children and families to gather and enjoy a day in the park.
A large area just north of the rural Humboldt County community's downtown has served as a city park for many years, but the playground equipment was beginning to show its age and became a safety issue for children when the animal swings on the park's swing set were recalled.
"Our swings were recalled and they were going to have to be taken out," said Gidget Trask, a member of the Renwick Project Playground committee. "I knew we were going to have to do something."
-Messenger photo by Emilie Nelson
Matt Monteith, left, and Alex Kittleson, work on assembling a new swing set in the city park in Renwick this week. The community was able to raise more than $80,000 over the past year for improvements in the park.
Trask contacted Renwick City Councilman Rick Larson to see what could be done and after a few months got together with Renwick residents Crystal Engstrom and Courtney Palmer to start planning and researching what it would take to build a new playground.
"We met with a few different playground equipment reps to see what we could get and what it might cost and set a goal of $50,000," said Trask.
Over the course of a year, the group met several times to plan and work on fundraising, which included applying for grants and soliciting donations to help meet their goals.
"The effort was kind of slow initially," said Trask. "But we held a community meeting last October to discuss the pros and cons and get feedback on what direction to go. Then we had a better idea of what we wanted."
Larson sent letters seeking donations from people who had attended the town's high school, which received a good response, he said.
"One thing that was huge was the support from the alumni," said Larson. "We sent out letters and really got a lot of money from people we don't even know who have ties to this community and the area. They thought it was great."
The community also held an auction and dinner earlier this year to help raise funds.
"We were hoping to get maybe 20 pies to auction off and ended up with 90 items that raised almost $8,000," Larson said. "The community has been a great support. They've donated their time and materials. We're very fortunate to have all of the donations."
A $34,500 matching grant from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, $10,000 from the Humboldt County Community Foundation and $300 from the Wright County Community Foundation also gave the fundraising efforts a boost, bringing the fundraising total to almost $85,000 for park renovation.
"We were up against 15 cities for the DNR grant," said Larson. "We were up against bigger cities like Dubuque, Cedar Rapids and Council Bluffs, but Renwick was second."
Having surpassed their fundraising goal by more than $30,000, the group was able to purchase a new jungle gym with slides, a swing set, balance beam, sand diggers, a jacks web, and bongo climber. The funds will also go toward new trash cans, fully renovated handicap accessible restrooms, fresh paint on the shelter house, rubber mulch for the playground and handicap accessible ramp, and park benches and shrubs. Work on the playground began Monday and equipment installation should be completed today.
"Some people might have thought we were crazy trying to raise $50,000 in a town of less than 250 people," Trask said. "But we were able to meet our goal."
Said Larson, "As someone who has been on the council for a long time I always knew something needed to be done here and it has been very gratifying to see what our community has been able to do."