REXBURG – A Madison High School Project Citizen undertaking will spruce up the long neglected Nature Park.
It all comes via efforts of high school students, Mallery Bailey, Kaylie Kirk, Sariah Owens, Katie Angell and Courtney Elliott, who suggest through their project, that the city may renovate the park at a cost of around $1,500.
In recent years, the park suffered from vandalism, pollution, overgrowth and neglect.
At the behest of Mayor Jerry Merrill, the young women met with the city council on Wednesday where they presented several ways the park could be maintained on a continual basis. Earlier this month, Merrill had listened to the girls’ presentation at the high school.
“I was so impressed, that I invited them to make a presentation tonight,” he said.
The young women suggested that improving the park could include having local prisoners, probationers and parolees clean the park and then have a controlled burn. They also suggested a complete remodel of Nature Park that would take about two months and cost an estimated $1,537,452. A third proposal suggested the city order a massive cleanup of the park and to take funds from other sources to do so.
While the three recommendations were possible, the young women instead suggested a fourth alternative that they believed could be quickly done, involve community youth and cost the city under $2,000.
Angell presented this fourth solution to the city council and noted that signage needed to be replaced at the park. She reported that a city worker volunteered to make new signs for Nature Park.
“He would be able to tell us where the signs need to be, what they need to say and and how many there would need to be. That same information could go on the Nature Park’s website, so visitors can see that in advance and before they come to the park,” she said.
Angell noted the problem with park pollution. She reported how earlier this year, she and fellow students worked with Adam’s Elementary School students in picking up trash at Nature Park for Earth Day.
“We had over 98 kids coming out. Each of us were in charge of each class that went around the park and picked up trash,” Angell said.
During that time, the Madison students noted that the ponds were empty, and that youngsters retrieved all kinds of garbage from such.
“The ponds, that normally have water in them, had car parts and different kinds of metal and carpet in them,” Angell reported.
That day, grade school youth filled three pavilions full of trash. As a result, the Madison High School young women decided to create an annual community cleanup at the park involving grade school children.
“We set up the system, that every year around Earth Day, elementary school children from Adams, Lincoln, Hibbard and Burton can come to the park (and clean),” she said. “The head of school transportation volunteered to transport. Different organizations said they would be willing to keep this going after we graduate. There will be zero expenses and zero requirements from the city.”
In the proposal, the young women suggested tackling the park’s overgrowth problem by having the city’s Parks and Recreation department set aside a small amount of money each year to hire a Rexburg business to clear the overgrowth covering many of the park’s trails.
“They could pick up dead trees and clear out unneeded shrubs and trim up bushes,” Angell said.
The young women also addressed the problem of pollution in the ponds when they are full of water.
“The solution for a lack of oxygen and cleanliness of the water is simple but very effective. Install a waterfall,” Angell said.
She pointed out that the annual spring runoff flows into the neighboring sewer plant. Workers there pump that clean water into Nature Park. As a result of the current pipe network between the wastewater plant and Nature Park, the city wouldn’t haven’t to install a new expensive piping system, she said.
Angell noted that a city wastewater worker agreed to hook up the city’s piping system into a waterfall system for the ponds.
“(He) would be totally fine if we added on to his piping system. He would also volunteer extra pipe for us to create the waterfall. He would also volunteer the rocks to make the waterfall itself. There would be zero expense for supplies,” she said.
Angell reminded the city that at one time, Idaho Fish and Game stocked the Nature Park’s ponds with trout for fishing at the park. The organization stopped doing so after workers removed a restroom from the park that Fish and Game had been regulating. Angell said that plans call to add a new bathroom to the park next year, and, at that point, Fish and Game plan to regulate that bathroom and to restock the ponds with fish.
“Once we put the fish back in, there will be more oxygenation and will change the color of (the water) making it more clear. The fish will be cleaning it for us. This is easy to do,” she said.
The city council thanked the young women for their presentation and remarked what a good job the girls had done.
Merrill was especially impressed.
“So many times there are lots of presentations where people talk to us and like to complain about things. These gals took action and made something happen,” he said.
The Mayor asked the city if they would be willing to agree to the girls’ proposed plans for Nature Park, and council members responded in the affirmative.
“We think it’s a great idea. With the council’s consent, I’ll visit with our staff people and appropriate some funds to go ahead with that. I think it’s a great idea,” Merrill said.
The council meets at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, May 16, at city hall. The meeting is open to residents. For more information call the city at 208-359-3020.