A land donation from West Central Cooperative is overhauling plans for a park built around a historic railroad trestle on the northern edge of Manning.A space of a bit more than 2 acres that used to house an old mill, most recently called the Manning Ag Center, will be available for a trestle-themed park that will cater to adults — which could include volleyball courts, horseshoes, bags, barbecue pits or grills, a running or biking trail and Nishnabotna River access for canoes and kayaks.
It also could include a “natural play area” with logs and rocks for the young kids who inevitably accompany some adults, Manning City Administrator Dawn Rohe said.
The idea for the park, introduced several years ago, originated from the realization that while Manning and the surrounding areas have good parks and playgrounds for kids, they don’t have similar spaces for adults.
“We already have a nice children’s park in Manning,” Main Street Manning Board President Ron Reischl previously said. “We have none oriented to young adults, who are certainly the future of the community.”
The concrete at the planned space has been ground, and dirt work is expected to begin soon before footings are placed for the bathroom and depot-themed shelterhouse that will be there.
The IKM-Manning High School shop class already has built an informational kiosk that looks like a train, which will be placed in the completed park.
The park previously was planned for a space of about 10 acres nearby, but some of that area is in a floodplain, a problem the West Central land donation solves.
Campgrounds could still be incorporated into some of those 10 acres later on, Rohe said.
The old ag center was demolished this winter and spring, and final plans are being made for the donation of the land. Because the park now will be created in a new space, the city is reconsidering some of its design plans, using the Community Visioning program to help plan the park’s concept and design.
The program is sponsored by the Iowa Department of Transportation in partnership with Iowa State University Extension Landscape Architecture and Trees Forever, according to a news release.
A come-and-go public meeting will be held from 1-4 p.m. Tuesday, June 28, at the Warren Timmerman Shelter House for residents to offer new ideas for the park and work with a design team. At 6:30 p.m. that day, the design team will offer a summary of the ideas gathered, a meeting also open to the public.
The old mill has a long history, having at one point been the Doud Milling Company, associated with First Lady Mamie Eisenhower’s family, and eventually becoming the Manning Ag Center. Although the building wasn’t salvageable as part of the park, its history will continue in the area, Rohe said.
Grants from Great Places, the Building with Bags Program, Refresh Manning Trust, the Warren H. Timmerman Grant and the BNSF Railway are helping to fund the project, and area contractors and laborers are offering in-kind services.
Down the road, additional fundraising and planning could result in more play areas for kids, outdoor exercise equipment, an incorporated trail and more surrounding the park.
“This could be a million-dollar deal if we want it to,” Rohe said. “We at least can do the basics with what we have right now, but there’s so much potential, so we’ll keep going.”
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