When Charlie Heyer moved with his family to the Prairie Park Addition in Waverly in 2016 from another area in town, the neighborhood had quite a few houses in the area, mostly, young families with children.
On Tuesday, neighbors marked a big milestone — the grand opening of the shelter in Prairie Park, one of Waverly’s newest, and a celebration of all that had been accomplished in the past several years.
The 3.5-acre park, which many in Waverly may recall as the site for the 2016 and 2018 Iowa Firefighters Association Conventions, which Waverly hosted, is partly planted with prairie vegetation.
A portion of it features a swing set, playground equipment, a basketball slab with hoop, a shelter, and a soon-to-be created pickleball court. The shelter and the basketball court are the newest additions to the features families enjoy here.
The park is more than just a green space in the back of the houses of a closely-knit neighborhood.
It has been an essential part of the bond which binds families who have now become friends.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that neighbors here are like an extended family circle.
Tuesday’s celebration was the culmination of several years of collaborative work between the city, the neighborhood, and the generosity of the Lions Club and the fire department.
Members of the Lions Club presented a check for $5,000 and the Waverly Fire Department presented a check for $3,000 to help offset the expenses for the new features at the park.
“We owe you and your crew a huge thank you,” said Charlie Heyer, the neighborhood association’s treasurer. “Without the Firemen’s convention, our neighborhood would have been like any other in town. The convention brought several within our neighborhood much closer.
“Our cans for kids was only the beginning. We often have little get togethers and welcoming random hang out nights. We have had neighborhood picnics, parades, fireworks, game nights, Halloween parties, ugly Christmas sweater parties and Mother day brunch to name some of the new little things we do together. We are more than just a wave at your neighbor community up here at prairie park, we truly are a fun little group of families.”
Doing their part to pay the bill, the neighbors also picked cans during the firefighters conventions and Heritage Days.
The city pitched in with a $23,000 investment in the shelter and the basketball area, said Garret Riordan, the city’s Leisure Services director, who attended the grand opening.
It was his predecessor, Tab Ray, he added, that got the ball rolling on the shelter, after being approached by the neighbors.
Additionally, the city wrote a grant for the basketball hoop, Riordan added.
Riordan also credited Paul Cheville, the city’s public grounds superintendent, with moving the process forward and ensuring its smoothness.
“He was very instrumental,” Riordan told Waverly Newspapers later.
The brief ceremony on Tuesday was attended by a handful of neighbors, members of the Lions Club — president Mark Trax and members Dave Wulam and John Egts — as well as representatives of the Waverly Fire Department, including Fire Chief Dennis Happel.
Heyer praised the partnership between the city and the neighborhood.
“Without the financial support and planning of this project from the city, none of our vision would have come true,” he said. “We appreciate the guidance and leadership the Parks Department has given to Prairie Park. There are a lot of projects in Waverly right now and we are lucky and fortunate to have this all work out for our neighborhood.”
Heyer said the idea emerged after a conversation between two neighbors.
“Diane Deike was wanting a place to sit down with her grandchildren and maybe something fun added to Prairie Park,” he said in his remarks during the grand opening. “Diane was talking to Angie Van Kley about some ideas and after the conversation it became a neighborhood imitative. We gathered as a group and voted on some ideas and elected Dean Deike as President, Greg Miller as Vice President and Charlie Heyer as Treasurer to help oversee the project.”
Riordan said everyone’s hard work, and good will did pay off for the good of the community.
“It’s just been great getting to know everybody in the neighborhood and working with them to provide a public shelter and a basketball court,” he said. “It would serve the neighborhood, but it would also serve all of Waverly.”