10 Years After…

Second, it doubles as a meeting and special events building that’s rented out for weddings, parties, corporate events and meetings. Scott says that it has become the place in West Des Moines to hold a wedding reception.

Finally, it provides an anchor for park-goers, with indoor restrooms and a staff member on hand to assist them.

“It helps offset the cost of running the nature lodge, and is probably our number-one public relations benefit. People go to the building, fall in love with it, and fall in love with the park by extension,” says Scott.

“We wanted a building the community would love to come to, so the architect put a lot of extra detail in the building. We had a private foundation raise over $100,000 to add some nicer finishing touches to it.”

The soccer fields, which lie on the opposite end of the park from the softball fields, are run by a private organization. The parks and recreation department provides minimum maintenance, like weekly mowing and daily restroom cleaning.

“They do all the field improvements, so if they want to install irrigation, for example, that’s up to them. The youth leagues have built their facilities from the ground up, and run the recreation end of the organization,” says Scott.

“If they want a higher level of maintenance they either contract with us, use a private contractor acceptable to us, or do it themselves.”

On the Horizon

The beachfront at the 250-acre Blue Heron Lake currently includes restrooms, a parking lot and a boat ramp. Long-range plans include a beach house that will host concessions, non-motorized boat rentals,

shower and changing facilities, administration and an adjacent pier.

Next on the agenda for Raccoon River Park is a unique, custom playground. This large playground will continue the concept of Raccoon River as a destination park.

“Most of our other playgrounds are the typical manufactured aluminum pole/plastic component type. This one will have some of that in it, but we’re also constructing a ship structure created according to plans prepared by Brian Clark and Associates, a Des Moines landscape architect firm,” says Ortgies.

“We’re also going to have a fountain area with water jets that come out of the pavement and overhead water spray. It’s an interactive fountain, and we want people, especially children, to come into the fountain.”

The current 3.2-mile trail loop at Raccoon River Park will be expanded to connect into the city’s trail system to help complete the “destination” aspect of the park.

Ortgies says the packed gravel portion of the trail is on the less-developed back side of the park, while the paved portion is on the more-developed front side.

“It keeps the pace slower, and we’ve found people appreciate that, because they can enjoy the natural setting without having people passing by at fast speeds,” says Ortgies.

Special thanks to Edwin R. Slattery, P.E., Stanley Consultants (www.stanleygroup.com) for assistance with this article.

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