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Park administrative superintendent talks about updates

Published: Thursday, March 28, 2013 11:57 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, March 28, 2013 12:17 p.m. CDT

The Newton Parks & Recreation Department has been hard at work this year providing the residents of Newton with the best park services possible. Recently, the Newton Park Board conducted a survey and asked residents what improvements they would recommend.

“We concluded our parks survey a couple of weeks ago and presented that to the Park Board last week,” Park Administrative Superintendent Nathan Unsworth said. “We had a pretty good response. (We had more than) 200 responses, and 200 was our goal. So that was good, and I think it gave us some clarifications on where we need to move forward, in terms of the parks in the future years.”

Of 200-plus responses, he said he noticed several common areas that residents felt a need to improve.

“From the survey, it would appear that bathrooms in the park, the bike and hike trail, the playground equipment and the pool would all be the priority projects,” Unsworth said. “Basically, either those things need to be expanded or improved upon, or just maintained and kept up to par compared to other cities, particularly the pool.”

Other cities, including Grinnell, have expanded their pool facilities. A representative for the city told the Daily News it installed a lazy river in 2010.

“When you compare us to Pella, Grinnell and some of these of surrounding communities, they’ve all recently updated their pools and have a lot more features than what we have right now at Maytag,” Unsworth said. “So what we are looking at is what we can do here in Newton to enhance the Maytag Pool to compete with those pools a little bit.”

Unsworth said he is planning on addressing the concern with the bathrooms.

“There are several parks that have no actual bathrooms in them,” Unsworth said. “We use a lot of port-a-potties. So (we may be) building some new restrooms in those parks or improving what facilities we do have in a few of those.”

Another major project the Park Department has been working on is the Newton Fourth of July fireworks show. He said the board began collecting donations at various stores throughout the city and Unsworth added that the board is halfway to its goal of $7,000.

“We are having a pretty good response, we still have a ways to go, but we are halfway to our goal,” Unsworth said. “So that’s good, and of course we are moving the fireworks (display) over to Agnes Patterson (Park). That is pretty exciting for this year to try something new.”

From the survey, the board learned a lot about the needs of the community, and Unsworth said the board plans on hosting a public meeting about it.

“When the park staff collected these (surveys), and we reviewed the survey now, we are going to put together some kind of public event that people can come out and hear the results of this, and then propose some of the ideas the Park Board had came up with from the results from the survey” Unsworth said. “The Park Board also completed a park tour, (where) they went and looked at the parks and golf course. They found some other ideas and brainstormed some other potential projects for the park. We (are) kind of putting together a roadmap and park plan here for the parks system. We will probably present that in April, and we encourage everyone that’s interested to come out and hear about that. We will also have opportunities for the public to provide feedback at that time too.”

As discussed earlier in the year at a previous board meeting, ordering fireworks early means the city will receive a discount.

“We’ve got a majority of it raised before we take it to council to approve the contract,” Unsworth said. “I don’t think we will have it all raised, but we will be pretty close on that. We can follow up with the remainder now through the Forth of July.”

Every year since the board was tasked with raising funds for the fireworks display, members of the community and businesses have donated money to keep the annual event going, and Unsworth said he is grateful for the donations.

“The Park Board has been tasked with this for the past couple of years and so far, the turnout in support has been great since it moved over from being fully funded by the city,” Unsworth said. “We still have other commitments out there that we haven’t received their support yet, but people have committed (to donating).”

When it comes to asking for donations, he said he calls past donors.

“We have a lot of local business that donate and individuals as well,” Unsworth said. “We have a list of past donors that we reached out to again this year to see if they are interested, and of course we like to recruit new donors as well.”

To enhance the fireworks display, the board previously talked about the possibility of making it an all-day event. Unsworth said the planning is just in the initial stages, but there are several ideas being looked into.

“We are hoping to get several or a few non-profits involved, to see if they can get out here and see if they can team up with us with some of those activities,” Unsworth said.

Staff writer Matthew Shepard may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at mshepard@newtondailynews.com.

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