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Remember “The Little Engine That Could”? This classic children’s story that reflects the values of optimism, hard work and perseverance has come to life in Lohrville, where volunteers are nearing their goal of installing a train-themed spray pad in the city park.

“It’s such a thrill to experience the sense of community that a project of this magnitude generates,” said Melissa Kinney, who lives on a farm between Lohrville and Lake City with her husband and three kids.

Kinney started thinking about a spray pad for Lohrville several years ago after residents in the nearby town of Churdan raised money to add new playground equipment to their city park.

“After taking my kiddos to the park, all I could think of was how great it would be for Lohrville to add something to draw people to town to utilize the existing park and trail system,” Kinney said. “A few phone calls were made, and the idea of a spray pad in Lohrville took off!”

With a population of just under 400 people, Lohrville is a small town that gets big things done, thanks in large part to Lohrville Visions. Since this non-profit group formed in 1997, volunteers of all ages have worked together to improve and beautify the town, from the community’s extensive trail system to the city park. “The volunteers with Lohrville Visions have stood behind the idea for the spray pad since the beginning,” Kinney said.

The time seemed right, especially as more younger families moved to Lohrville and Calhoun County. “We wanted to build on that positive momentum,” said Logan Mogler, who moved to Lohrville in 1999 and serves on the Lohrville Fire Department.

Mogler and other residents also wanted to challenge the claim that “there’s nothing to do here.” They noted how popular spray pads were becoming in other communities. “These water features attract people from 30 or even 60 miles away,” Mogler said. “A spray pad looked like a good option for Lohrville to offer inexpensive, outdoor recreation for children and families.”

Spray pad celebrates Lohrville’s railroad history

In the past few years, Lohrville Visions volunteers and the City of Lohrville have been working together to add a custom-designed spray pad (estimated at $200,000) to the city park. Fundraising is underway for this new project, which will offer a fun, interactive water play area for children of all ages.

With its railroad and train themes, Lohrville’s spray pad will blend the best of the past and the present. The design honors the history of this Calhoun County town, which one boasted three rail lines in town. The spray pad will include a train engine and other fun features like a water tower, tipping buckets and ground nozzles that shoot water up in various configurations.

Kids will be able to turn on the water by pushing a button on a “fire hydrant” in the spray pad, or they can activate the water through a foot pedal on the ground. A timer system will determine how long the water sprays out.

The spray pad, which will cover approximately 1,500 to 1,800 square feet, will incorporate a recirculating system to provide a continuous water source as kids run around and cool off. “We’re excited that the spray pad will be handicap accessible and offer free admission to all,” Kinney said.

Lohrville has hired an engineer to help with the design/engineering aspects of the project, as well as the required permits for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “You don’t realize how much volunteering and people it takes to do these projects until you start,” said Jill Parker, an active member of Lohrville Visions.

Since there’s no standing water with the spray pad, lifeguards are not required. Spray pads offer a variety of benefits, including interactive play for kids and their families, a safe way to enjoy more physical activity outdoors, and an opportunity to build stronger community connections.

“Our goal is to have all the electrical redone and new sidewalks poured, along with handicap parking by the summer of 2024,” said Parker, who noted that Lohrville Visions volunteers continue to raise money and apply for grants to complete the spray pad.

Recent fundraisers included the Daddy-Daughter Dance at the Lohrville Community Building in February, and the community’s annual Lobsterfest, which is slated for March 9. Lohrville Visions is also raising funds to extend the town’s trail system, plus the volunteers support ongoing efforts to beautify the town.

“Our sole intention is to better our community”

Local volunteers will help install the spray pad equipment when it’s time to assemble the play area. The spray pad is slated to open by the spring/summer of 2025.

Mogler appreciates the way Lohrville Visions rallies around projects like the spray pad. “Volunteers make good things happen here, without any expectation of personal gain. Our sole intention is to better our community and have fun working together to reach these goals.”

Kinney is pleased that the spray pad will be an asset to not just to the town, but the region. “Adding this feature invests in not only Lohrville, but also Calhoun County. Also, what a great thing this spray pad project is teaching the younger generation—the importance of volunteering and being a part of the community.”

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