Renovated Civic: Central Park, Grinnell

Grinnell’s Central Park has historically been an important hub for community activities and celebrations. Gifted to the City by J.B. Grinnell in the late 1800’s, the 3.8-acre park is the City’s oldest park. It has provided generations of citizens with a civic venue for all sorts of gatherings. However, the Park hadn’t seen a makeover — outdated play equipment, lack of modern amenities, and underutilized lawn space made it harder to plan a visit.

Grinnell’s rich cultural history was used to inform the current version of the Park and its renewal also sparked the adjacent downtown, bringing higher numbers of people from all across the community to the area.

A multiphase, multi-year approach was used to ensure implementation, beginning with a master plan. Nearly half the project budget was supplied by private donations, with the rest coming from a mix of public and private sources, working in partnership with one another.

A 30-year-old gazebo was relocated on the site to offer better event opportunities and activate a little-used section of the park. Permeable paving throughout the park enhances stormwater management. Compelling lighting systems bring the park to life (and enhance safety) during nighttime events.

The new park offers multiple opportunities for diverse, multigenerational enjoyment, including a picnic shelter, amphitheater, gazebo, new playground, splash pad, seasonal plantings, lawn space, broad paths for walking and biking, and a “history walk” with educational signage and brick pavers imprinted with donor names. A full 80% of the site’s mature canopy trees were protected and preserved, and they now enhance the sense of this park’s history and sustainability.

People United for Responsible Land Use