September 1, 2020

The pandemic and derecho may have changed league and tournament play at Ahrens/Paschall Memorial Park this summer but they didn’t deter the park’s capital improvement project checklist.
Ahrens Park is home to eight youth softball and baseball fields, outdoor basketball courts, a tennis court, four pickleball courts, a sand volleyball court, three youth soccer fields, a golf driving range, several playground areas, three shelter houses, a sledding hill, community gardens, green spaces, and a one and a half mile outdoor walking path.

This summer, the park added gaga ball to its expanding list of recreational options. Gaga ball, a kinder, gentler dodge ball played with a foam ball, is popular among school-age kids and was recommended by local Eagle Scout, Wyatt Eaton, who constructed the octagonal pit as a service project.

Plantings, parking lots, and public sanitation were also on the Ahrens Park improvement list, overseen in recent months by Chad Nath who is assisting Ahrens Park Foundation with project management and strategic planning. The park foundation was established in 1997 to provide first-class recreational and athletic facilities for the greater Grinnell community.

Nath said native plantings were added to several areas of the park to reduce mowing but more importantly to contribute to soil conservation. Park users will notice these in areas along the driving range, the walking path by the soccer fields, and the walking path by the sliding hill which was prone to erosion.

The Giving Garden at Ahrens Park added accessibility to its many features this summer. Raised beds were constructed at working height for accessibility with wheelchairs and walkers. The garden also added a composting bin, a vegetable washing station, and edible flowering plants to complement adjacent Dolly’s Garden, named for the late Dolly Ahrens.

Two other projects were already in the planning stages when the pandemic hit and directly addressed public health guidelines—portable hand sanitizing stations throughout the park and upgrades to all public restrooms that reduce touchable surfaces. Nath points out that the sanitizing stations can be moved to high traffic areas during a big tournament weekend, for example. The public restrooms near the soccer fields, baseball/softball complex, and playgrounds all installed hands-free lighting and painted epoxy floors for ease of cleaning.

Perhaps the most noticeable improvement for visitors to Ahrens Park is the resurfaced parking lot and park entrance and exit. The original park S-curve entrance/exit was replaced with a dedicated entrance near the Ahrens Family Center and a dedicated exit near the soccer fields. Nath said that safety and security were the main goals for the project, and new signage promotes better utilization of available parking.

The August derecho took a toll on three dozen of the park’s trees so new tree plantings are planned for this fall and next spring. Planning by the Ahrens Park Foundation board is already underway for 2021 projects that will include donor signage and historical markers similar to those found at Central Park.

Community members interested in supporting capital improvement projects at Ahrens Park may donate online at The Ahrens Park Capital Improvement Fund is administered by the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation. More information about Ahrens Park is available at