A year in review: Community

Dec. 30—In a county in which its people cherish community events, projects and ventures, it's no surprise 2022 hosted a range of new ideas brought to fruition.

"I think a great highlight of our community is the progress happening in the uptown district," said UCDA interim Director Mindy Stalker. "Not only the new businesses that are starting uptown but also the investment in the buildings uptown and several projects have started and continue to be started this year. We look forward to that progress."


In March, Afton City Council member Mary Hill asked if some of Union County's second round of American Rescue Act funds could be used for expansion of the town's walking trail.

The work is for about .7 of a mile. Of that distance, one-third of it is outside Afton city limits. Hill said the plan was to fill in the areas where there is no trail or sidewalk. That would be from near the intersection of Scott and Olive streets, near Fairview Housing, to near East Union School.

In June, Hill accepted a $5,000 SCICF grant for the project. Later that month, Hill said funds for the project exceeded the estimated budget.

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On June 8, following more than a year of planning, shovel hit grass for Lexi's Puppy Patch in McKinley Park.

The rally for Lexi's Puppy Patch started after 18-year-old Lexi Rounds was killed in a tragic car accident December 2020. Her parents, Jeremy Rounds and Angie Wegscheid, stopped at nothing to get this project off the ground.

Since then, much of the dog park has been constructed including a parking lot, water main, dog waste stations, two picnic tables, a bench and two water fountains funded by a Greater Regional Health donation.

On Dec. 12, a balloon release at the site in honor of Lexi's 21st birthday. A grand opening is tentatively planned for May 1.

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In June, Creston Parks and Recreation received $5,000 SCICF grant to fund a pickleball court at McKinley Park.

Ping pong meets tennis in this increasingly popular game. Pickleball features a court, low net, paddles and a large, lightweight ball.

In September, construction of the court began.

The court is located at the east end of the all-purpose court at McKinley. The location used to feature a volleyball court, but it was replaced with sand volleyball in Taylor Park leaving the space vacant.

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In May, work began to make the McKinley pool project a reality as Creston City Council approved an agreement with Garden & Associates, LTD for a topographic site survey of the immediate vicinity of the proposed pool improvements within McKinley Park.

Phase I was proposed to include adding zero entry to the toddler pool, updating and repairing of existing mechanical systems, addition of heat to the pool, a climbing wall in the lap pool and the all-inclusive splash deck that will be open to the public when the pool is not open.

The intent was to spend about $1.4 million on the first phase of upgrading the pool. But bids for the work received in late November were at $1.9 million. The bids were rejected, and organizers say they are looking at our alternatives to try and make this project happen.

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In September, Southern Iowa Trolley was awarded $1.6 million of federal funding for a new building.

The regional transit system provides services for elderly, handicapped, students, and the general population. From July to October, 20,000 people were served.

But in all the years they've served the community, they've never had their own building.

Plans are to keep the facility in Creston as it's the most centrally located in their service area. Having their own building will give them the autonomy to address facility issues as they come up.

The building is planned to provide additional security, more meeting and training space and additional maintenance bays.

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In September, the Iowa Utilities Board and Alliant Energy held an informative meeting about Alliant's proposal to build a solar-power generation and battery storage facility east of Creston.

Planning for the project started in 2018 and should all legal work and procedures not have delays, construction is expected to begin in late 2023 or spring 2024. Alliant has acquired 307 acres for the project but plan on having only 76 acres dedicated to the solar power and battery.

The estimated 99,000 solar panels will convert the sun's rays into electricity and that will be divided between the power grid and saved in the battery system. Electricity from the solar field will be used by area Alliant customers. Battery power can be used when solar generation is low.

Alliant is striving by 2030 to reduce fossil fuel generation and carbon dioxide emission by 50% from 2005 levels. Alliant also wants to reduce water use for electricity by 75% from 2005 amounts.

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In October, Union County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved dedicating $720,000 of the county's remaining American Rescue Plan funds for two housekeeping cabins at Three Mile Lake.

Union County Conservation Director Doug Jones presented the proposal to build two housekeeping cabins at Three Mile Lake. The cabins can hold multiple people with individual bedrooms, bathrooms, heating, air conditioning and be open year round. Jones estimated they would not be ready to use until 2024.

In other Three Mile camping improvements, there will be new electric pedestals with 50, 30 and 20 amp offerings. The electrical pedestals will be at each camp site, rather than every other. Ten existing camp sites will have sewer and water access.

Work should be complete in January.


In July, Creston hosted Molly Hatchet, world touring southern rock band as a part of its July Fourth festivities.

This year's event was the biggest yet for the Creston Parks and Recreation Department. Board member Gary Borcherding said they took a chance and spent more than they have before.

He estimates 600-650 people attended the concert, the second-largest crowd in Party in the Park history.

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In October, a new event on Maple Street was born.

Fiesta on Maple held a Hispanic heritage flavor — literally and figuratively.

Creston Mayor Gabe Carroll said the Market on Maple concept, the outdoor shopping event, was taken from economic development meeting ideas how towns can utilize a certain area of their town and show their potential. But he wondered what more they could do.

In addition to a variety of Hispanic food vendors, the event featured a bounce house and face painting for the children, mechanical bull and a soccer challenge.

"Fiesta on Maple having their first event this year I thought it was very successful," Stalker said. "I look forward to more groups pulling forward to create community events."

Places and People

In January, the Creston Arts Center held a grand opening and ribbon cutting.

The Creston Arts Council, a 501(c)3 non-profit, has been serving the community since 1977. In 2011, a new group of volunteers took over and began art programming such as summer art camp, chalk the town and the depot art gallery.

In late 2019, Iowa State Savings Bank gifted the building located at 411 W. Adams St. in uptown Creston to the Creston Arts Council to be renovated as a community art center. The building was in need of major restoration. It took a series of grants and renovations to make the building what it is today.

The center now serves as a community venue for events and activities.

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In July, a new way to recognize children of the community was formed.

Joe Anson, the person behind veteran of the week, created kid of the week — a way to honor kids for their compassion and kindness.

Since then, dozens of kids have been presented plaques, t-shirts and wristbands. Anson has arranged for firefighters, EMTs, law enforcement and even Felix the Panther to be involved in the ceremonies.

Kid of the week takes place at approximately 5 p.m. Wednesday evenings.

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In August, the Gibson Memorial Library welcomed Gabriel Chrisman as its new director.

Library work is not new to Chrisman. His previous work was with the Des Moines libraries. His career has included work in libraries, academics and archiving.

Originally from Boston, Chrisman, 44, has lived across the country throughout his life. He received his degrees in history and library operation from the University of Washington. His wife Sarah is the director of the library in Garden Grove in Decatur County.

Chrisman desires to have Gibson Memorial a place where people can find answers, and not all from a book or whatever material is in the building.

This year, the library proposed moving locations to the former Walmart building on New York Avenue, but plans came to a halt as Greater Regional declined the interest.