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The grins flashed by children traversing a new bicycle track on the north side of the old city park in Little Rock bring smiles to the parents of 4-year-old Griffin Engelkes, who died one year ago last week after being struck by a pickup along a rural road.



The bicycle track was completed May 19 in memory of Griffin, thanks to the memorials received, monetary donations raised through fundraisers and unexpected gifts of volunteer labor.



Construction of the concrete track began in late April, with contractor Mark Mulder of nearby George, Iowa, donating his labor to see the project to fruition.



Griffin’s parents, Nate and Hannah Engelkes, said about 75 yards of cement was used to create the more than 170-foot track that features curves and straight-aways, two lanes, stop and yield signs and street signs named after some of Grif’s favorite things — Cake Court, Marshmallow Circle, Santa Claus Street, Lighthouse Place (his favorite song was “My Lighthouse”), Hulk Smash Avenue and Jack-Jack Road.



There is also a street named Griffin Douglas Drive, and another signed as Iowa Donor Street.



“And we have some Adopt-A-Highway signs that say ‘Orange for Grif,’” shared Hannah. The signs were made and donated by Iowa Prison Industry, the same group that makes street signs for roadways across Iowa.



The city of Little Rock designed the track, Mulder put up the forms and added ADA accessibility, Tri-State Pumping offered their pump truck to pour the cement and eight men from VanderPol Excavating of Sioux Center volunteered to help with the cement work. Nate and his brothers, Gavin and Dalton Engelkes helped when and where they could.



Feikema Gravel donated all of the sand to establish the base of the track, Buffalo Ridge Concrete provided concrete at a reduced cost and Van Holland Lawn Service of Sioux Center glued mulch together to prevent it from getting onto the track by little feet and bicycle tires.



The final touches included two benches in memory of Griffin, as well as a bike rack. The city of Little Rock planned to do the seeding around the track once everything was in place.


In Iowa, parks were allowed to reopen on June 1, and the bicycle track has been a popular place for children — particularly in the mornings and evenings when it’s a bit cooler outside, shared Hannah.



“You know how hard it was for those kids to sit around and wait for that track to open?” Hannah asked. “There’s some kids who live across the street, and every day they’d come and watch the progress on it. The day it finally opened, we saw a ton of kids out there.”



Within a short time, the kids had added skid marks with their bicycle tires as they rounded corners and curves. Griffin’s older brother, Gibson, was among the first to create the black skid marks on the concrete. He said having the track in the park is a lot of fun.



“I think it’s cool because it has all the signs,” added 8-year-old Jayla Wiertzema, who was enjoying the track Thursday afternoon with her brother and sisters.



Hannah Engelkes said that while the project was done in memory of Griffin, the family has made lifelong friends as a result of people coming together to complete the bicycle track.


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