Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
Kaydence Nelson, 3, takes a ride on a swing set at Pioneer Park Friday via a push from her mother, Amanda. The pair were in Independence from Salem to visit yard sales.
August 27, 2013
INDEPENDENCE -- Seeing the fruits of your labor is one of the greatest joys of volunteering.
Accomplishing a project and watching people benefit from it is what makes most volunteers take on various projects.
For Dawn Roden, she doesn't even have to leave her front porch to see what a year's worth of hard work can do for a community.
"While working on it I thought, `This is a long process. Am I doing the right thing?'" Roden said. "Now that there's a park there, there are so many people who come and enjoy it. It's really turned into a community park where people are taking care of it."
Roden, along with a coalition of volunteers, raised almost $40,000 to renovate Pioneer Park last fall.
Since then, the site has become a jewel in the city's park system.
Roden grew up near the neglected park, which saw rampant vandalism, underage drinking and other seedy elements.
Almost all the negative aspects that drove Roden to band together with the community to fix the park are gone, save for the rare case of vandalism or occasional littering.
"It's turned into learning opportunities for my sons. As a family we went over and cleaned up the vandalism on the benches," Roden said. "I had my 6-year-old and 5-year-old do most of the work. I want my boys to know this is their park and it's their responsibility to take care of it."
Because of low revenue streams from home construction, the city's inability to improve the park spurred Roden and her team to do it themselves.
The new play equipment at Pioneer Park was paid for with almost $40,000 in donation and grant money.
Raising money through donations and grants, finding the appropriate equipment to install and putting in the long hours was more work than Roden was expecting.
However, that spirit of ownership and community involvement is sometimes more beneficial than the city doing the work itself, said Shawn Irvine, Independence economic development director.
"You take a park that didn't have much in the way of amenities and it opens the door for potentially negative users," he said. "When you get a lot of energized people like that together, it makes things a lot easier. Cities like ours rely on our volunteers, it just leverages what we can do."
Other projects caught Roden's eye and came up for discussion during and after the completion of Pioneer Park, but she's biding her time for now to focus on the newest member of the family and enjoying her first major project.
"I think I could be an asset somewhere down the line for doing this again, but since I just had my daughter I'm kind of not making any big commitments right now," Roden said.
"I can see the whole park from my front porch. It's a pretty awesome little park. I'm pretty proud of it."