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Who’s Name Is That? New Signs Tell Stories Behind Park Names

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DES MOINES, Iowa - Des Moines Parks and Recreation has launched a new campaign in the hope that knowing more about the stories behind our city parks will help us enjoy them more.

They’re important places named for important people—and here’s to keeping that in mind.

“Captain McHenry--Mick McHenry--was the first soldier from Iowa killed in World War One,” reads Ben Page off the new sign in McHenry Park.

That sacrifice was remembered when the park was named long ago, but since then forgotten—until now.

“We don’t want to forget about the great historic men and women that helped found this city," Page says, "we want to celebrate that and preserve it for future generations.”

And this is the Parks and Recreation Board’s way of doing just that.  Each park will get boards giving faces to the names, and telling their stories to those who come to play.

“It gives them a little bit of a connection to their park—their neighborhood," he says, "but it also helps us when we go to fund raise for parks as we can show there’s a history, and maybe connect it to somebody who's very important and it maybe helps us with a donor.”

The signs and stands run about $1,000, but the non-profit group “Friends of Des Moines Parks” will being helping out.

“They’re working with local neighborhoods and saying ‘If you’re willing to help us find some of the history here in collecting that data, as well as maybe a little skin in the game to help us underwrite the cost’ they will fund it without any other city dollars going into this,” Page says.

The city plans to add three or four a year, and will continue to update the boards with new pictures and information. So you can learn more about the great Evelyn Davis, Francis Drake, or Donald MacRae, why they were once important enough for a park and still worth remembering.

1 Comment

  • Brian

    I Believe Merle Hay was the first Iowan killed in WW I (Nov 3 1917). I belive Capt Mc Henry was the first Officer killed during the War (March 5 1918)

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