Dale Stafford can envision converting what today is little more that trees and weeds into an inviting fishing and camping area along Elm Creek.
Stafford, a consultant with Landworks Studio, joined Carisa McMullen and Holly Powers Thursday for a final parks improvement presentation as part of the Vision Iola process. They also spoke about grant funding for trail and sidewalk development.
Two ideas stood out.
Stafford said converting the land on opposite sides of Elm Creek along South Washington Avenue into a fishing and camping area would fit one of the city’s biggest needs.
He pointed to surveys that indicated most Iolans want better fishing access, as well as a dog park. The third most cited recreational issue was finding a use for hundreds of vacated flood properties in south Iola.
Iola owns land on the south side of the creek near Washington; a bank owns property on the north side. If the city could acquire that property at an attractive price, the land could be used for outdoor lovers, Stafford said.
In addition to fishing and camping, a portion of the land could be used as a Frisbee golf course. Ideally, a walking bridge could be built to span the creek.
City property west of the Neosho River Bridge also could be further developed for more camping and fishing access, Stafford said.
And empty lots that formerly contained flooded houses near the intersection of South State and West Irwin streets has plenty of space for a dog park, McMullen said, noting that earlier proposals for a dog park were eschewed because of protests by neighboring homeowners. The State-Irwin site is ideal because there are no nearby homes.
Among the other ideas:
— The northeast quadrant of Iola has little access to recreation, particularly for children who cannot drive. Stafford said a parcel of city-owned property near Eisenhower Drive would be perfect for a small neighborhood park.
— A wooded area east of the Neosho River Bridge is ideal for a tree sanctuary or nature trail. The terrain is conducive for other activities, such as paintball, Stafford said.
— The city’s old water tower on North Elm Street has undeveloped land that could be used for an age-specific playground. Because the water tower is in the central part of town, the area would work as a trail hub as well.
MCMULLEN and Powers spoke about enhancing the city’s existing parks as well.
Riverside Park, for example, could be made more inviting if the city redeveloped its historic entrance.
And the park has much too much asphalt. Much of it could be converted to green space to better funnel traffic and make the park safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
“Right now, you have people cutting across parking lots to get to other parking lots,” Stafford said.
McMullen also suggested creating a second, separate playground area as well as a walking path and bike path.
Putting landscaping around the buildings would make it easier for crews to mow, she said.
MEADOWBROOK Park, on North Cottonwood Street, would be well-served with a full-court basketball court, tennis and pickleball courts and a playground for children ages 5-12. The big-ticket item for Meadowbrook would be a spray deck — water features that spray and squirt but don’t collect standing water, eliminating the need for a lifeguard.
Cofachique Park, on North State Street, could use better signage as the starting point for the Prairie Spirit Trail. A smaller sign that talks about Iola’s history could be expanded.
The city’s lesser-known parks — East Iola Park and Walnut Park — could use some enhancements as well.
East Iola Park needs more lighting, McMullen said, with perhaps a natural playground to replace the aging playground there now. Walnut Park would be more suited for passive activities, such as bird watching. A small walking bridge could connect the park with Highland Cemetery, where many residents walk.