FALLS CITY/DALLAS -- The Ford Family Foundation's Ford Leadership Institute Program's goal is to help create vital rural communities.
A group of leadership class participants from Falls City and Dallas are taking a literal approach to that objective with a project to build a "pocket park" in each town.
Pocket parks are small open areas or green spaces. The pocket parks in Dallas and Falls City will feature a bench, a decorative planter, concrete work, and perhaps a statue.
"The whole idea is to build community," said class member and Dallas resident Denise Swanson. "We decided to build a community gathering place."
Swanson said the group went through a series of monthly leadership courses, which helps participants learn to use collaboration, consensus building and strategic planning.
Part of the training is using the skills learned to complete a "hands-on" project.
The Ford Family Foundation donates $5,000, with the requirement that the class raise matching funds to complete its chosen project.
Swanson said the group quickly singled out pocket parks.
"We thought the pocket parks were really the best way to organize a project in two different cities," Swanson said.
The Dallas park will be built in the grassy area next to the Dallas Burger Char Grill Chicken Basket restaurant on Main Street. Swanson said the city-owned location is perfect because of its proximity to downtown and access to the city's Rickreall Creek Trail System.
She said it would make a convenient stopover for people, especially seniors, walking from the north Dallas area to downtown.
The park in Falls City will be in the vacant lot on North Main Street beside the former Paula's Kitchen restaurant building and across from the Falls City Arts Center.
Class member and Falls City Clerk Tresa Bowlin said the Falls City pocket park location, like Dallas', will be convenient for people walking to and from downtown.
The park would be located in an area that has seen a number of new ventures having taken root.
"I think it will help with beautification of the downtown and give that green section a little bit more purpose," Bowlin said.
Bowlin said though the majority of the group members -- 27 of the 30 -- were from Dallas, the group worked with an equal consideration of both cities.
"They were all very much thinking about Falls City," she said.
The group is raising funds and hopes to have the projects completed this summer. So far, the group has raised about $2,000 for the two parks. The goal is raise about $7,000 in cash and in-kind donations.
To contribute or schedule a presentation of the project for a group or organization, contact Denise Swanson at 503-363-1651 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.