• Sat February 27 2010
  • Posted Feb 27, 2010
Berwick, IA Proposed renovations to a county-operated park in Berwick received strong support from residents during a town hall meeting with Polk County Conservation officials last week. Under the plan, Mally's Weh-Weh-Neh-Kee Park will receive several upgrades, including a new parking lot, mowed space for gatherings and events, a larger picnic shelter and vault toilets - which collect waste in a receptacle underground to be pumped out periodically - with running water. A natural play area for children also will be installed. The play area will include a series of mounds with slides, tunnels and ropes and likely will have a beaver theme. At the Feb. 18 meeting, some area residents expressed concerns about the park's safety. Eric Lundstrom, who lives near the park and serves as the park's gatekeeper, said he has often had to chase people out of the park after dark. Dennis Parker, director of Polk County Conservation, said the renovations will reshape the roads to limit how far vehicles can travel into the park, which should help address some of the park's safety issues. "Security is important to us," Parker said. Money for the park improvements has already been secured, so "the interior park work will probably happen fairly quickly," Parker said. Berwick resident Craig Hornbacher said he supports the park renovations. He has a young family and thinks the park improvements are "good for the community." "I know a lot of kids would like to have a place to play," he said. Some residents, however, expressed frustration with a plan to run bike trails through the park. Mally's Park sits in the middle of a proposed series of bike trails that could someday connect Ankeny, Des Moines, Bondurant and Altoona. Part of the proposed Gay Lea Wilson Trail would run north and south through the park. Though some money has been secured for trail projects, it could be a few more years before a paved bike trail would exist through the park. Parker also outlined another section of trail that Polk County Conservation is considering. The organization recently learned that Union Pacific intends to abandon a stretch of railroad near Berwick. Under a law Parker called "Rails to Trails," Polk County Conservation can purchase the abandoned rail line and convert it into a bike trail. That portion of the bike trail would run diagonally along the existing rail line, potentially extending the Gay Lea Wilson trail to the southwest and extending the Chichaqua Valley Trail to the northeast. So far, the extension is just a proposal. One portion of the proposed bike trail would run through Harold Silver's farm. The farm has been in his family for more than 140 years, and although he supports improvements to Mally's Park, he had many concerns about the bike trail. He said he was worried about the safety of bicyclists passing through his property and those trespassing on his land, as well as his ability to get his farm equipment across the trails. "I don't want it going through my land," he said. Though the proposal was met with some controversy at the meeting, Parker told the crowd that he receives support for bike trails from people all over central Iowa. "Biking is one of the growing activities now," he said. Mally's Weh-Weh-Neh-Kee Park is located on Northeast 38th Street/Northeast Berwick Drive in Berwick, northeast of Des Moines. SIZE: 37 acres OPERATED BY: Polk County AMENITIES: Picnicking, stream fishing. IMPROVEMENT PLANS: A new parking lot; mowed space for gatherings and events; a larger picnic shelter; vault toilets; a play area with slides, tunnels and ropes. FUTURE PLANS: If the county purchases property the Union Pacific railroad plans to abandon, a trail through the park could extend the Gay Lea Wilson trail to the southwest and the Chichaqua Valley Trail to the northeast. THE NAME: "Weh-weh-neh-kee" is a Mesquaki name for "a good place," according to the Polk County Conservation Web site.

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