Plans for splashpad and other park improvements in New Albin receive significant boost from $100,000 Wellmark Foundation Grant

Splashpad and improvements ... Above is a rendering of the new splashpad being planned as part of an overall park improvement project in New Albin. Pictured at right in the image is upgraded playground equipment also planned as part of the overall project. Submitted image created by MySplashPad.

Another view and additional improvements … Pictured above is another view of the splashpad and overall park improvement project being planned for the park area in downtown New Albin. In addition to the splashpad features pictured above, the current basketball court area (pictured at right in the photo background) will be improved upon and fenced off, with an upgrade to playground equipment also planned as part of the overall project. Submitted image created by MySplashPad.

by Lissa Blake

After six years of planning, New Albin’s new splashpad site is starting to take shape.

According to Splashpad Project Coordinator Betsy Whitlatch, the idea to create a family-friendly place for people of all ages started about six years ago. Alexie Grotegut and Hope Lemke founded New Albin Improvement League (NAIL) in 2014, along with several other New Albin residents, with the goal of building a splashpad in the community. Six years later, NAIL organizers and many other volunteers are still working toward fully accomplishing this goal, but are beginning to see the end in sight.

“We’re really appreciative of the community support that we’ve had for this improvement project that we feel will strongly better the lives of residents of New Albin. We have had tremendous financial support, which is necessary to be able to make the project happen, but also great general support for the overall improvement,” said Whitlatch. “And all of the NAIL members do a wonderful job helping with all kinds of different aspects of the project, from fundraising to planning.”

Whitlatch said in planning the space, they felt it was important to locate it in the downtown area. The town’s park next to the fire station currently houses a playground that was put in place about 25 years ago.

“Next to the playground is a little cement slab known as the tennis courts, but there are no tennis nets,” said Whitlatch.

Because of its central location, current designation as a park, and proximity to City water pipes, NAIL felt this location was the best option for the renovations. “There’s no pool in town, so we felt putting in the splashpad would be a good option to give children a space for water play,” she said.

In addition to a 1,500 square-foot splashpad, the project will include adding a single-stall bathroom (the first public restroom in New Albin with running water) and fencing of the basketball courts. Lights will be added near the basketball court and the current playground will be revamped, including fixing broken parts of the large playground structure, the addition of some new playground equipment, and a soft playground surface.

“We also wanted to think of something older community members might enjoy, so we decided to put in a shade shelter with seating and a vertical garden, which is a fence consisting of plants and flowers,” she said.

The vertical garden also will provide a volunteer opportunity for community members interested in helping with its upkeep.

“We also are planning to put in additional benches. We have been looking for ways to make it a more inviting community space for everyone,” added Jessica Meyer, who serves with Whitlatch in also coordinating the splashpad project.

Whitlatch said the complete cost of the project was projected to run about $250,000, and to date they have raised upwards of $280,000, which gives them the ability to make additional improvements to the playground and basketball courts that they were not anticipating having the ability to do.

The NAIL group applied for a Wellmark Foundation grant and recently received $100,000 toward the project in a matching grant that has obviously been met by the project committee at its current fundraising total. “The Wellmark Foundation is proud to support this project that encourages physical activity now, and for generations to come,” said Becky Wampler, The Wellmark Foundation executive director.

The project also received an $18,000 grant from the Allamakee County Community Foundation. Various area businesses and individuals have also given donations to help the project reach its current $280,000 funding total and will be recognized at a donor recognition site to be located near the newly renovated space.

Due to the COVID-19 situation, the coordinators say the project has the potential to be somewhat delayed. At this time, groundbreaking is anticipated to happen in mid-June with the removal of concrete from the tennis courts area.

The splashpad contractor is scheduled to come by mid-July, with projected opening of that portion of the project to come next summer. The rest of the park portion should be completed by early fall.

“We’ve had amazing support for this project and we look forward to its completion,” summarized Meyer.

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