It seems towns, especially small ones, do little to try and keep young people interested in staying in a community. If they have to travel to other towns to "recreate" themselves, it just becomes one more reason to leave once they reach adulthood. The young are a community's most precious asset. Do more to entertain them and you increase the chances they will want to stay.
Since the construction of the four lane highway to our west was completed, a commute to Marshalltown has become less painful, and to many parts of town has become an easy commute. In the next few years, when Highway 30 is modernized through Benton County, the commute to Cedar Rapids will be easier.
At this point in time, the job market in both communities does not offer a lot of options for those looking for work. Perhaps when the "Pack" opens again, those fortunes will change. In the meantime, for many wanting to stay in the area, a daily commute to one of the larger cities is required for employment.
This area has some definite draws. Relatively low real estate prices, low property taxes, and a low crime rate would top the list. We are wonderfully positioned at a crossroads to expand our position as a bedroom community. Those dynamics that top this list are what draw young people back to the community. Give them an economical place to live, a place where they feel safe to raise a family, and more will come.
But one thing small communities fail to do, is create fun things for the young people to do. Several years ago, in 2005, there was an initiative started in Tama to build a skate park. There was tremendous interest from the young people living here at the time. I'm not quite sure why it was never developed. I had hope, so did my teenaged son, and many of his friends. I do understand parts of it were completed this year, but it is still not what the young people were promised. Finish it, whatever the cost, please.
Several years ago Galen Musgrave, of Musgrave Motors led an initiative to build a 9 hole disc golf course at the Toledo City Park. For many years it was one of the premier disc golf courses in the area. I have played it many times personally. It was a real asset to the community and was a good use of the park, which should be a multi-use area. Many of you may not be aware of just how popular the disc golf course was, but it saw quite a bit of use. I have played several of the courses in a fairly wide circle, and it was always one of my favorites, and was better than the 9 hole course Marshalltown had at Riverview Park on the north edge of town.
Earlier this year, Marshalltown replaced their 9 hole disc golf course with a new 18 hole design. It is a fine course, although the layout, in my opinion is a little counter-intuitive. I think you have to walk too far from the hole, or basket on the finish of one hole, to the tee of the next hole. It might have been better laid out if they had hired a professional design team to lay out the new design. Don't get me wrong, even with theses shortcomings, that course is a fine course, and is an asset to Marshalltown, and a fits in well to a rather large multi-use park.
Earlier this year, the Toledo City Council hatched a plan to dip into the Hotel-Motel Tax Pool, to expand the disc golf course. Without using any city funds, the entire project was paid for out of the tax pool. A professional course development team from Missouri, Gateway, was enlisted to survey and lay out the course. It shows. Unlike the minor defects I pointed out in the Marshalltown course, the layout of this course is intuitive, and the path to the next hole is laid out logically.
The cost to develop and build the course, was $10,000. Toledo now officially has an 18 hole championship disc golf course.
The hardware, or baskets one tosses the discs into are some of the best I've seen on the courses I've played. They are set in concrete, and have a locking mechanism installed to deter vandalism and theft. The signage, which was installed Friday, is also some of the best I've seen in the area. They show the fairway orientation, and the distance to the hole, or basket, in feet. The course is a mix of par 3, and more challenging par 4 holes. It is indeed a championship level course, and Toledo should be proud to have this community asset.
Since the season is waning, and there aren't going to be that many warm sunny days conducive to playing disc golf, it will no doubt be next spring before this investment in the community begins paying off.
But will it pay off, you might be asking. If it draws people to the area, as it already has, they hopefully will spend a little money while they are here. Lunch establishments have already seen some minor increases in traffic as a result. What needs to happen next year, once it warms up, is Toledo needs to sponsor disc golf tournaments on the course. All of the good courses have them, and they draw quite a few participants.
Besides premium equipment, and some of the best signage I've seen, Toledo acquired 200 professional playing discs, with a Toledo logo. They are available now at the Toledo City Clerk's office, at Toledo City Hall. You can buy your own for $10. When all 350 of them are sold, and it won't take long if we hold tournaments, $2000 of the $10,000 investment will be returned to the fund.
I plan on taking advantage of the remaining warm days we will no doubt have, and play a round or two. I hope to see you there!
Until next time--
You can read past columns by visiting tamatoledonews.com and clicking on "view all" next to "Local Columns."
In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2013 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.