GRANGER, Iowa -- Over the last three years, Polk County Conservation has spent over a $1 million to upgrade Jester Park.
“It’s incredible to see how the park has grown,” said Chris Clingan, park ranger at Jester Park. “You’ll see a lot of different counties that don’t put resources into the parks but we do here in Polk. It’s nice to see.”
In the last year, they’ve spent over $100,000 to improve the park.
Among the bigger upgrades visitors will notice is the improved accessibility of the park. Those improvements include new steps and ramps at the park’s lodgings areas, a new pavilion, and new bathrooms throughout the park.
Clingan smiles as he talks about how the park has grown and hopes it continues.
“It’s constantly evolving out here,” said Clingan. “We’ve got some plans down that could be really big at the end of the summer. The biggest thing though is the Nature Center. It gives us the capability to reach out to people year round.”
The Jester Park Nature Center is slated to open on Earth Day of 2018. The project will cost roughly $11 million.
“It’s going to be a state of the art facility. They forecast that it could be bigger in attendance than the zoo and Science Center combined,” said Clingan.
Clingan hopes the upgrades will continue to get children out to the park.
”Over the last couple decades, it seems like the youth is further and further away from the world that they live in. I think it’s really important for them to get grounded with where you come from and know your role on the planet and how different things interact,” said Clingan. ”I think being outdoors can really be stress relieving. You can really add to your quality of life. It can really trigger a lot of imagination. You can experience some interesting things that you can’t when you’re sitting behind a TV or playing video games.”