A place to gather: New Albin Splash Pad has successful first year as New Albin Improvement League (NAIL) continues park enhancements

Improvements continuing at New Albin Park... New Albin Improvement League (NAIL) continued to make improvements to the community park area in New Albin throughout this summer, as the new splash pad area proved to be a popular and enjoyable (as evident in photo below) place to be this past summer. In addition to the addition of the new splash pad, a shelter area was added (far left in photo above), updates were made to the basketball courts and surrounding fencing, and a new playground area was also installed. Still in progress is a community garden area that is being planned for completion next year. Submitted photos.

by Lissa Blake

A wonderful first season. That’s what New Albin Improvement (NAIL) member Betsy Whitlatch had to say about the success of the New Albin Splash Pad and additional improvements made to the city park. “This was our first full summer and we heard some really great reviews,” she said.

Whitlatch said adding a new shade shelter to the park area really made it a more welcoming space for people of all ages. “That was a huge addition to the area. We saw lots of kids and families there all summer,” said Whitlatch. Whitlatch said this summer saw higher usage of the basketball courts in the park, and even though the splash pad has been winterized and is closed for the winter, the playground is still seeing some heavy use.

“We’ve heard just great things. We’ve seen people from other areas, such as La Crosse, travel here,” she said. Whitlatch said the goal of the project from the start was to create a more welcoming community space. “We had a really lovely summer. It feels like a true gathering space for community… just a nice place to feel like you are connecting with your neighbors from nearby,” said Whitlatch.

In a previous interview in June of 2020 regarding the improvement efforts and addition of the new splash pad, Whitlatch said the complete cost of the project was projected to run about $250,000, and they had raised upwards of $280,000, which gave  them the ability to make additional improvements to the playground and basketball courts that they were not anticipating having the ability to do.

The project had received a Wellmark Foundation matching grant for $100,000, and an $18,000 grant from the Allamakee County Community Foundation. In June of this year, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced the project would receive a $10,000 Rural Innovation Grant from the state of Iowa which has been earmarked to add a community garden aspect to the park location. Various area businesses and individuals have also donated  to help the project reach its goal and will be recognized at a donor recognition site to be located near the newly renovated space.

Whitlach said although the splash pad portion of the park is closed for the  year, the park is still seeing heavy use. In late October, the town’s Halloween Scavenger Hunt started and ended in the park. “It’s just a place where kids and families can come and play together. It’s just a lot of fun.” The next project NAIL plans to undertake is the construction and development of the space’s community garden. “We will be looking for volunteers, so anyone who is interested can feel free to contact me,” said Whitlatch. Interested volunteers can send an email to Whitlatch at betsywhitlatch@gmail.com.