(P-0201) By the 1930’s, more and more University-related activities were now on the west side of the river. The SUI hospital moved west in 1928, and both the basketball and football teams were playing their games in new facilities built in 1927 and 1929 respectively. With the advent of the automobile, access to City Park was available to most Iowa Citians, yet one reoccurring problem still needed to be addressed: flooding.
In 1939, the country was still reeling from a decade of economic depression. In an attempt to build new jobs, two major work projects were created along the Iowa River, with the hopes of addressing the on-going problems associated with spring-time flooding…
Before we close, we must tell you about two additional City Park stories…
On June 6, 1947 The Daily Iowan reported the drowning of a ten-year-old boy named Keith Howell who, with his friend Jimmy York, had been playing in shallow floodwater on City Park property. The boys were playing in the west section of the park when the log Howell was floating on rolled, sending him under water. York and other young bystanders were unable to swim out to help Howell. York found the park superintendent, George Turecek, who instructed him to call the fire department while he went to the scene of the accident. Firefighters found the boy’s body in deep floodwaters over the west pond.
An editorial, titled “How Much is a Child’s Life Worth?,” appeared alongside the front-page article on Keith Howell’s death. R. Bruce Hughes, the editor of The Daily Iowan, calls for the construction of a municipal swimming pool because of the recent drowning. He asks not only for a safe space for children and families to play and swim, but for a place to teach children how to swim, so that future drownings might be avoided. In October of 1947, City Park was approved and government funds secured for the construction of a new municipal swimming pool for Iowa City residents. With consistent renovations, City Park’s municipal pool, open each year Memorial Day to Labor Day, has lasted more than 70 years.
“My grandparents started it all originally (1952) and they ran it for 25 years or so,” Guy Drollinger said. “My dad then ran it for about 20 years, and then I took over for six years, starting in 1993.” The city purchased the rides from the Dollingers in 1999, keeping the rides going until 2018, when finally, maintenance and insurance costs overtook any desire to keep the rides alive.
Now, over a century later, the park’s 107.3 acres offer Iowa Citians basketball, bocce, tennis and horseshoe courts, baseball and softball fields, a boathouse, dock, boat ramp, grills, picnic tables, walking trails, and the City Park swimming pool.
Because of the low density of oak trees in the Lower City Park area, grasses and other vegetation dominate the habitat.
From 1839 to today – here’s a big salute to the Iowa City’s City Parks. And here’s to many more years of fun, frolic, and recreation – thank you City Park – Iowa City.
Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.