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From empty lot to recreational facility: Quarry Springs Park thriving thanks to community

Published: Thursday, April 13, 2017 9:33 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, April 13, 2017 1:24 p.m. CDT
Caption
(File Photo)
Quarry Springs Park offers patrons a variety of activities, including shore fishing, walking, jogging, bicycling, cross country skiing, snow shoeing, walking leashed pets, kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding and camping.

COLFAX — When the city of Colfax first obtained ownership of the 480-acre park from Martin Marietta Materials, Inc. in 2015, Quarry Springs Park was a sand and gravel quarry, sitting vacant and no longer profitable.

After a little more than a year of planning and working the land, Quarry Springs Park volunteers transformed this empty park into an outdoor, recreational facility for everyone in Jasper County.

In November 2015, Colfax City Council approved the master plan. Nearly two years after acquiring ownership of the quarry, residents now have a place to enjoy a variety of recreational activities, from indoor archery to stand-up paddleboarding.

“The water out here is crystal clear,” co-chair of promotions, Patrick Utz said. “With nature, there is beauty in other animals. We don’t have a lot of resources with water. To me, this is a great opportunity to see something other than corn fields and soy bean fields.”

According to Doug Garrett, Colfax Park & Recreation Auxiliary Board president, the revitalization of the park began with a $53,000 Iowa Department of Natural Resources REAP Grant.

“We used that grant and a lot of donated time from Keith and Kurt Russell to do all the shoreline that you see. The grant paid for a fair amount of that. They seeded the grass, put that fence line there for safety,” he said. “That changed the aesthetics right away.”

After more than 700 hours of volunteer work, the board opened the park for fishing and hiking May 1, and later that month, opened camping sites at cost of $10 a night per tent.

“It is primitive camping, but it is kind of cool just to drive down through there,” Garrett said. “A lot of people like to go down there and fish. A lot of people just walk their dogs or walk themselves through there.”

The park held its official grand opening July 24, gathering the community to participate in activities such as a kids fishing derby, a ceremony highlighting the history of the land and a ribbon cutting ceremony.

On Jan. 21, the park opened up it’s latest addition — an indoor archery range. Featuring eight lanes and targets at 10, 20, and 30 yards, the newest add-on to the park quickly attracted several archers around the area, from hunters to Olympic hopefuls.

With the recent success, the board members plan on continuing to expand the facilities of the park in the future, with potential projects including a dog park, picnicking shelters and adding a water system to the area.

The park was recently one of 91 Iowa communities awarded a grant for the Paint Iowa Beautiful 2017 program. The park was allotted eight gallons of paint to begin work on a block building, located on the property.

The board hopes to transform this property into a rentable space for community and private events.

“What usage is for the building we don’t know. We haven’t really discussed the fees or anything, but clearly, there is definitely a need for a place for gathering, whether it’s graduation parties of whatever,” Garrett said. “Someone could (also) do a wedding out here ... coupled with 240 acres of water in a 480 acre park, that allows you to draw in a bit.”

The board president said he aims for the project to finish up by May, but the timetable of the work is subject to change.

From their Rock the Quarry concert to monthly photography contests, the board members hope that their fundraising efforts not only increase the resources at the park, but also become fun events all residents of Jasper County can look forward to.

“We want to help promote the park, promote the city and give opportunities for things kids in the community can do,” Utz said. “It is easy to promote for Colfax, but we are trying to branch out to Newton as well. Some of our Quarry concerts and our fishes derbies, we are going to Newton businesses and asking for donations and hanging posters there as well.”

With still a lot of work to be done, the auxiliary board is excited to continue to enhance the park, and eventually turn it over to the city for operational management.

“We have always discussed that way down the road, 10 to 15 years, once it is up and sustainable, it might be the time to turn it over to the city and we would just be the fundraising arm and the volunteer arm, but not the operational arm so much,” Garrett said. “In the meantime, this is great for the venue and the area. There is no way you could pass up this opportunity.”

The board president said Colfax Park & Recreation Auxiliary Board is in need of volunteers.

“We want (Quarry Springs Park) to be a legacy to everyone. It really is a regional park,” he said.

Anyone who wishes to volunteer can attend its monthly meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the basement of the Colfax United Methodist Church on the second Wednesday of every month.

For more information on the park, visit colfaxnorthpark.com, call 515-478-6272 or find Quarry Springs Park on Facebook.

Contact Anthony Victor Reyes at areyes@newtondailynews.com.

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