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Growing Community Requires Guidance of Comprehensive Park Plan

Nestled among Iowa’s rolling plains, the steadily growing community of Norwalk abuts the southern edge of Des Moines. To better address the recreational needs of their growing population, city leaders enlisted the planning services of Snyder & Associates to create a park and open space plan to guide all future park system improvements and acquisitions. The plan also identifies goals and recommendations for the future development of parks and trails within the City of Norwalk.

Ideas of the park system are written down from those within the communityThe city currently has approximately 90 acres of land designated for public parks or open space and three privately run golf courses. It also has a series of parks that meet a variety of recreational needs. However, not all park acres serve area residents in the same capacity. The parks vary in size and amenities provided, further highlighting the need for a comprehensive plan.

Building upon the previous Norwalk Comprehensive Plan adopted in 2013 and updated in 2016, the plan developed by our team is the result of ongoing dedication and collaboration among residents and other stakeholders. It was shaped by those who have served the Norwalk community on the Park’s Advisory Committee, City Staff, and the public who attended meetings and participated in the public survey.

Detailed Goals of the Comprehensive Parks & Open Space Plan

Flyer for the the community input survey for the city park systemThe first step in the planning process was to set goals to serve as a basis for future park planning. While general in nature, the goals directly relate to the objectives and conditions that set the standard for future improvements and growth. Based on these objectives and conditions, a set of eight goals were established for the city’s park system. These include the basics of establishing a comprehensive plan to guide the acquisition and development of park and recreation facilities to identify potential park locations in deficient areas.

Another part of the planning process included a review of the city’s current dedication ordinance requirements. It was recommended that park site dedication requirements and policies be updated under the guidance of the City Attorney. Consideration should be given to modifying the requirements, so they provide expanded direction and better guidance on the community’s expectations of parks. This extensive process established ten independent policy review and consideration steps that should be followed.

Implementation Process & Funding Sources Helps City Enact Improvements

From the outset of the planning process, Norwalk city leaders showed a commitment to building and maintaining a park system that coincides with its goals of being a community where residents have a high quality of life. To reinforce this, community leaders and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission members recognized the importance of outlining an organized strategy for funding to implement this plan. The goals established in the plan are long-term goals and are not anticipated to be completed within the next 5 to 10 years. The intent of the plan, however, is to guide future development and community growth occurs, and to identify needs within the existing park sites.

Jazz Band presents in the open space of future development of parks in Norwalk

Parks provide the ideal setting for multiple entertainment venues.

While some recommendations can be implemented through the annual budget process and Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), additional funding sources will most likely be necessary to fulfill all the park, trail, and bikeway needs. Funding assistance for improvements is available from a variety of different sources and the plan provides a resource for seeking funding through grants and private donations.

This comprehensive plan was an important initial step in developing a bold vision for the City of Norwalk’s park system. A vision that will have a lasting impact on the local community as it grows. The successful implementation will require continued support from the city and the public. The ideas put in place should continue to be interpreted and developed further as the community continues to grow and implement various phases of the plan.