Elise Bergan, Edgewood Economic Development Director, led the Philanthropic Tools project in Edgewood. In between her Facebook posts to promote the Homecoming mum sale and the updated Rodeo schedule, Bergan convened her board, chamber of commerce officers, school board members, and elected city council volunteers to face their collective future. To say that she cracked her own whip around the ring of the community is not an overstatement.
Corrine Kroger, an experienced Parks and Recreation Planner from the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, would become her advocate and advisor. Together they started to inventory the amenities already in place, a listing of programs and services that were keeping the community members literally, active.
Next, they teamed up with a hometown guy, Cody Funk of Insight Design Solutions, a landscape architect firm based nearby in Cedar Falls. The three champions defined a community needs assessment process to drill down and discover the recreation and wellness priorities of Edgewood residents.
They started this process with interviews, and meeting with business leaders, they celebrated that kickboxing classes were offered in open spaces above retail businesses.
“We learned about who was jogging at dusk or hopping on sidewalks early in the morning just to move and recreate,”
With interview findings in mind, the trio partnered up with the University of Northern Iowa to develop a household community survey which was mailed to over 250 households within the city of Edgewood.
Elise, Corrine and Cody were excited when they experienced a 48% return rate on the surveys. They were expecting the normal 20 or 25% return but found this to be another indicator of a very engaged active community.
“People in Edgewood had their voices heard and demonstrated they really care about recreation and healthy lifestyles,”
After the mail-in survey, UNI students help facilitate a house-to-house survey to fill in gaps. In November of 2015, a Community Engagement event was hosted with 65 residents coming together to celebrate the findings.
“We had two major themes that came out of this process and they really fell in line with the original plan that was developed by the Economic Development Board to create a healthy and vibrant Edgewood,” says Kroger. “The two themes really were about expanding existing trails or sidewalks within the community or developing new trails within or around the city and then the second is taking a look at the current aquatics facility and determining whether or not improvements should be made on the existing structure and facility or if a larger facility should be constructed and considered for the long term.”
On that November night, after roundtable discussions, those two themes remained with a majority of the residents expressing a high desire to see new trails implemented throughout the community. Participants also voiced interest in trail hubs or connection points to create safer, efficient and inviting walking options. Community Dreams is one of the Edgewood’s biggest assets and was an example of a future hub where trails would meet.
The subject of the aging swimming pool was close in line as a topic of need during the community engagement event. As the meeting broke up, residents volunteered for a working group to drive the agenda forward.
In the spring of 2016, the trio of community champions met with the Edgewood City Council to restart the conversation. Cody Funk explained that with survey data and residents ready to go to work, now was the time for a recreation master plan.
The plan would cost $15,000. Corrine and her partners at the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque would help with grants.
Corrine concluded, “Anybody can say I want to achieve these goals in the next five years. But you have to have steps for implementation in order to make sure that it’s successful and by doing that, you engage the right people, you get community leaders, and working groups with vested interests to keep it moving along. Otherwise, it will sit on a shelf. The recreation master plan will accomplish that.”