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Best Summer Yet? Park Activities Bring Fun, Connections, Peace

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- It’s always been in the middle of the King/Irving Neighborhood.

“This is like home away from home, you know?” says Marcus Green, a resident of the King-Irving Neighborhood.

Now, it seems more like the center.

“This park is a park that other neighborhood associations want their park to be," says Jen Fletcher of the Des Moines Parks and Recreation Board, "it’s like Gray’s Lake.”

Four the fourth straight summer, Evelyn K. Davis Park hosted daily programs for children. Some 7,000 participated this year.

“It really is a good thing to have something like this program because otherwise the kids wouldn’t have much to do," says resident and activities volunteer, Jean Minahan. "Because their parents can’t really afford a lot of things like taking them swimming or to other places.”

Parents got some help, children got an outlet, and the Des Moines Police got a welcome chance to connect with all of them under good circumstances.

“Maybe in five years if something happens they need to talk to someone, they can use that officer or they can use our department,” says Sgt. Jason Halifax.

This was the only Des Moines park to provide daily programs—thanks to funding from the Knapp Foundation.

The Parks and Rec Board hopes its success might be contagious.

“Maybe we can find funding to take this model to other parks,” Fletcher says.

Police say this was one of the safest most trouble-free summers yet, here, and neighborhood elders say they know why that is.

“The good thing about it is the kids have taken back the park, you know?" Green says. "The residents have taken back their park.”

And they hope to keep it.