A ‘Secret’ Garden: Urbandale Park & Arboretum 40 Years in Making

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

URBANDALE, Iowa - It's more than 40 years in the making, but odds are, you never knew about it.

The Jackaline Baldwin Dunlap Park and Arboretum in Urbandale is a 12-acre development set to officially open to the public on June 7. Four acres of the plot feature a matured arboretum, with a variety of native and foreign trees and plants, including concolor fir, horse chestnut, blue spruce, and magnolias.

"The most common comment I get is, 'I didn't know this was here, how beautiful,'" said Jan Herke, Director of the Urbandale Parks and Recreation Department. "What a generous gift from the Dunlap family to the city. We can continue now to enhance and develop the arboretum, but also - what a jewel in our community, that in a residential area, we have 12 acres of such beautiful property."

The Jackaline Baldwin Dunlap Park and Arboretum has been "growing" for more than 40 years, when Jackaline and Paul Dunlap began purchasing acreage around their home, and developing the area to one day gift to the city of Urbandale. (WHO-HD)

The Jackaline Baldwin Dunlap Park and Arboretum has been "growing" for more than 40 years, when Jackaline and Paul Dunlap began purchasing acreage around their home, and developing the area to one day gift to the city of Urbandale. (WHO-HD)

Herke calls the story behind this "secret garden" nothing short of incredible: Jackaline and Paul Dunlap began developing the area in 1974, when they bought their home at 3012 Melanie Drive. The couple began purchasing land around their home, transforming it into the park and arboretum it is today; in 2012, the couple officially deeded the land - as well as their home - to the city of Urbandale. Jackaline passed away in 2014, and her husband followed in February of 2016. Herke says it was always their intention to gift this garden to the community.

"I met Paul in 2012, had a chance to meet Jackaline before she passed away," Herke said. "And he said, 'This was Jackaline's dream; we've developed it for over 40 years, but from the very beginning, she said, I want to gift this to the city someday, so the rest of the community can enjoy this.' And it's not just for them, now it's for the community for generations to come."

The Urbandale Parks and Recreation Department says its focus now is to complete the infrastructure before its grand opening next month; the park will include a covered, outdoor shelter, along with educational materials, for self-guided tours. It also features a parking lot, and a memorial stone for the Dunlaps will be added later. A 2,100-foot trail will wind through the park, connecting to the nearby trail at Patricia Park, as well as Coronado Park.

In its first year, park workers will focus on maintaining the variety of trees and plants already growing in the city's first arboretum; in later years, the city hopes to expand on the collection.

A ribbon-cutting will occur for the park's grand opening on June 7 at 6:00 p.m.