Giving the parks a facelift

Parks and Rec. faces funding and staff shortages

T-R PHOTO BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ Landscape designer Shannon Gapp, left, and landscape architect Casey Byers, right, both representatives from Bolton & Menk consulting agency, unveiled their initial findings in a public presentation, held Tuesday afternoon. The pair spoke about ways to improve and update Marshalltown’s 21 parks, using data collected from a recent community-wide survey, plus analyzing national data. The findings will be used to complete Park’s and Rec.’s 2018-2028 Strategic Master Plan.

What do Marshalltonians like and dislike about the city’s 21 parks? What aspects could be enhanced or improved upon? These questions and more are being addressed in Marshalltown Park’s and Recreation’s 2018-2028 Strategic Master Plan, aspects of which were shared in a public meeting held Tuesday afternoon.

Representatives from the consulting agency, Bolton & Menk, presented some preliminary findings to those assembled for its presentation. First, people assembled at Anson Park, followed by West End Park, to hear the agency’s findings on what needs should be addressed specifically at those two parks. Afterwards, the meeting continued at the Council Chambers-City Hall, whereby more extensive survey findings were revealed.

Bolton & Menk designed a survey, available for download in both Spanish and English at: and at the Parks and Rec. office, located at 10 W. State St., from now until August 31.

More than 200 surveys have been completed thus far. The findings, teamed with data collected about cities across the country with similar populations of Marshalltown, were revealing.

“The number one point on the survey people want to see addressed is updated existing parks and equipment,” said Casey Byers, landscape architect of Bolton & Menk.

Improving overall maintenance of existing parks, providing more lighting, increasing accessibility and updating restrooms were all the top goals survey takers cited as most important.

Byers noted, however, Marshalltown Parks and Recreation is at a disadvantage, compared to other cities around the United States who have similar populations (22-35,000 population cities).

“The operating expenditures per acre of parkland Marshalltown Parks and Rec. works with, is $7,699; the national median (for similar population) is $11,064,” he said. “In addition, the total number of people working full time hours on park’s and rec.’s staff is 14.92; the national median (for similar population) is 25.8.”

However, in terms of acres of parks in the city, per 1,000 residents, Marshalltown ranks right on track with similar cities (7.62 Marshalltown, 8 national median).

The three demographics, according to the survey, that are most under-served by the city’s parks are: teenagers, senior citizens, and those with disabilities.

Shannon Gapp, landscape designer with Bolton & Menk, said most people who took the survey said at least one person in his/her household uses a city park two or more times a week.

“Clearly, these are parks that are being used,” she said.

The suggestions made by Bolton & Menk to improve Anson Park include: adding sidewalks, adding off street parking, putting in more lighting, and getting people interested in hosting social gatherings there, which could generate funds for Parks and Rec.

At West End Park, where plans are in place to convert the existing tennis courts into futsal courts,

Bolton & Menk would like to see the park become handicapped accessible, add more garden area, and see the park used for gatherings such as outdoor concerts and festivals.

“There is already a good infrastructure at West End Park,” Byers said. “As the park sees new improvements, it will open the door to more events.”

A final presentation of Bolton & Menk’s analysis will be held sometime during Oktemberfest, at a time to be determined.

To learn more, contact Parks and Rec. Director Anne Selness at: or 641-754-5715, ext. 4.


Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at 641-753-6611 or