Waterloo Park groundbreaking

Waterloo town officials and guests break ground for the new Waterloo Veterans Memorial Park in a ceremony Wednesday afternoon. From left are Park Board member Dwight Zerkle, Town Councilmen Ken Surber and William Hubartt, Park Board members Jan Hoffmeister and Julie Buss, Town Council President David Bolton, Town Manager Tena Woenker, state Rep. Ben Smaltz, Derek Pilley of U.S. Rep. Jim Banks’ staff and Town Councilman Jess Jessup.

WATERLOO — A groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday launched construction of Waterloo Veterans Memorial Park, on the town’s south side at Center and Walnut streets.

The park’s first features — a pond, sledding hill and dog run — could be ready within a month, town officials said.

As the shovel ceremony began, a bulldozer arrived on a flatbed truck, ready to begin digging the park’s pond and creating a sled hill from the soil it removes.

The pond will be 12-14 feet deep at its deepest point, said Ralph Holman of Holman Excavating. He expects to complete his work in 1-2 weeks. The pond will be two-thirds of an acre in size.

The park’s dog run should open in 2-4 weeks, Town Manager Tena Woenker said.

Plans call for stocking the pond in October with 8-10 varieties of fish.

Also to be installed this fall are a drinking fountain, benches and accessible trails connecting the park’s features.

Coming later will be a veterans memorial, splash pad, longer trails and parking spaces.

Town Council President David Bolton said the park was first discussed in 1999, but it had gone nowhere by the time he first saw the plans — when he joined the council in 2011.

Bolton said his reaction was, “Now, that excites me. It’s one of the reasons I joined Town Council.” He said he prescribed, “We’ve got to get a park board if we’re ever going to get another park in Waterloo.”

This spring, the town launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise nearly $50,000 to qualify for a state matching grant for the park.

“How many of you were skeptical?” Bolton asked a crowd gathered Wednesday afternoon.

As it turned out, the town raised more than $62,000, easily beating a 30-day deadline.

“Thirty days was nothing. We did it in a week-and-a-half,” Bolton said. “We really got donations from all of DeKalb County. That made me really excited, because it said the people in the community want this.”

In all, “We had 110 donors, which phenomenal,” said Woenker, whose eyes misted with emotion as she spoke to the gathering.

State Rep. Ben Smaltz and Derek Pilley of U.S. Rep. Jim Banks’ staff praised the town for dedicating the new park to honor veterans.

Smaltz added, “We have to create quality of place that makes people want to come here, and this is exactly what Waterloo is doing.”

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