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Photo credit: Iowa Cubs
Photo credit: Iowa Cubs

Get seated early for Friday evening’s Iowa Cubs game with the Columbus Clippers. You won’t want to miss the 14th annual pre-game ceremonies that transform Principal Park into a temporary courtroom. That’s right: a courtroom.

At 6:30 preceding the I-Cubs game with the Columbus Clippers (7:08 first pitch), U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Locher of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa will stride out onto the infield to conduct a swearing-in ceremony for 30 new citizens from 20 countries. It is a colorful, emotional event for those standing on the third-base line when they swear the Oath of Allegiance. And it’s a Kodak moment for cheering families and a stadium of baseball fans.

Michael Gartner, formerly the Iowa Cubs majority owner, once remarked, “It combines baseball and citizenship and fireworks, everything American but Mom and the apple pie.” Read more about the ceremony.

One of America’s newest citizens‚ Tammoy Bagchi, from India, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Countries represented Friday evening: Bhutan, Burma, Cambodia, Cameroon, Congo (Kinshasa), El Salvador, Eritrea, India, Kenya, Laos, Liberia, Mexico, Philippines, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Korea, South Sudan, Thailand, Ukraine, and Vietnam.

Since the first on-field event in 2009, 421 new citizens have been naturalized at Principal Park.

Here are remarks by U.S. Senior Judge Robert Pratt, who served up a memorable 2- or 3-minute speech in previous years.

Download PDF • 44KB


Des Moines Parks and Recreation staff recently completed installing new public art along five Des Moines trails. Pretty cool stuff! Be sure to check out the art—funded by a BRAVO Greater Des Moines grant—along the John Pat Dorrian, Bill Riley, Carl Voss, Neal Smith, and Walnut Creek trails. Park planner Aaron Graves, above, was in charge of the project, which represents 10 artists and photographers. HOMEOWNERS RENOVATION PROGRAM HITS $4 MILLION MARK Invest DSM reports that in two short years, homeowners have invested more than $4 million through the Homeowner Renovation Program. For every Invest DSM grant dollar ($1.367 million to date), property owners invested $1.93. The four Invest DSM targeted neighborhoods are Franklin Area, Oak Park/Highland Park, Drake Park, and Columbus Park. For 124 completed projects, the average project cost is $32,262. CITY-WIDE BLOCK CHALLENGE GRANTS: WIDELY POPULAR Heather Tamminga, the neighborhood outreach coordinator for Neighborhood Services, reports that 40 neighborhood teams applied for the citywide Block Challenge Grants for exterior projects that opened May 1. Some neighbors were roaring to go at the first opportunity: The first team application was posted at 12:01 am.

Because of the program's popularity, City funding for the program, originally budgeted for $200,000 in match funds, has been increased to $400,000. To date, 16 teams have been approved and exhausted the funding for the 2022 cycle.

The approved projects represent more than $1 million in planned home improvements by 207 homeowners.

Eight of the teams are in low-moderate income neighborhoods. Gray’s Lake Neighborhood was the most aggressive neighborhood association with four teams. Most teams were in Ward 1 and Ward 3.

Applications are now closed for 2022 but you can learn more about the program and plan for 2023. ZOO’S CONSERVATION PROGRAM GETS WINGS

A Butterfly bush in Melanie Johnson’s front yard on 44th Street

There’s a lot more going on at the Blank Park Zoo than visiting giraffes, rhinoceroses, and Red River Hogs. Conservation efforts, for example.

The zoo’s Plant.Grow.Fly. program is all about making residents aware of pollinator issues and taking action to preserve them. Chris Eckles, the zoo’s chief engagement officer, has been busy encouraging residents to register all types and sizes of garden spaces, from pots on a back porch to entire prairie restorations. No effort is too small, Chris reports: One nectar plant and one host plant qualify as a pollinator garden.

So far, residents have registered 1,641 gardens. Chris has a goal of 2,000. Here’s how to register yours. Here is how to register yours. BROADLAWNS NURSING STUDENTS SIT IN ON PORGY & BESS REHEARSAL

Ten students enrolled in this summer’s Training and Education for a Career in Healthcare (TECH) at Broadlawns Medical Center had a lifetime experience when they sat in on Porgy and Bess dress rehearsals at Simpson College. And seeing Simon Estes rehearse for his final stage performances? Woozier!

Izaah Knox, left, Urban Dreams executive director, and Dennis Henderson, right, TECH program director, arranged the evening with the cast rehearsing for the Des Moines Metro Opera performances. The TECH class includes upcoming seniors and recent graduates from five Des Moines high schools.

There were 100 applicants for this year’s TECH 8-week program; 10 were accepted. TECH details listed here:

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OMG! WHAT’S THAT SMELL? I think we can agree on this: A capital city that bills itself as a world-class community shouldn’t harbor “gag-me” odors on still mornings. Or any mornings. Des Moines has no legal definition of a nuisance odor or what constitutes a nuisance odor, but we’re about to attempt to clear the air. Sometime this fall, the City Council is expected to enact odor regulations and guidelines. The goal is to set a baseline for acceptable odor and ask companies to take steps to meet that goal.

In preparation, on May 16, Suresh Relwani, a principal with RK and Associates of Warrenville, Illinois, begins hands-on training of City neighborhood inspectors on odor science, odor sources, detection, and industrial monitoring. Neighborhood Services staff has identified ten odor-producing sources dotting our city.

In part 2 of the training, City staff are sorted by odor sensitivity to identify the best candidates for conducting field monitoring and responding to odor complaints. Those with a nose for this job learn how to locate an odor source, produce a quantitative number, and determine probable composition.

“We’ll train the staff on the scientific perspective and what is acceptable,” Suresh says. “Every odor can’t be a nuisance.” Part of the training includes learning how to use an olfactometer. (The photo above shows one model.) The New York Times recently profiled one model, the Nasal Ranger. Suresh and staff plan to remain in Des Moines for several days to collect samples, then return in August for another round of sampling before finalizing a report to the City Council.

HUGE UPGRADE FOR DOWNTOWN PARKING The long-awaited replacement of downtown parking meters, with 3,406 space identification markers and 400 pay stations, is underway. As of May 6, 1363 meters have been swapped out, and 223 pay stations activated. (The photo, bottom left, is along Water Street.) City Traffic Engineer John Davis expects an early July completion for the $3.2 million upgrades.

With the new scheme, individuals can pay for parking using a nearby pay station (quarters or credit card accepted) or the ParkDSM mobile app. John Davis reports that about 54% of the 2,700 payments have been via the mobile app, available for Android or iOS.

John Solarz and his team at NowNow LLC created the ParkDSM branding.

(I used the technology—and it works easy-peasy as promised! After you download the app, add your credit card info and provide license plate details on your family’s vehicle; it saves time.)

Why the roll-out delay? Besides the pandemic-induced supply-chain-related holdups, the first shipment of space identification markers was lost in transit—the driver, truck, and cargo just disappeared. Poof! Theft at the terminal of origin is highly suspected.


Firefighter Katherine Hoffman, foreground, was one of 17 new Des Moines firefighters sworn in on April 15 at ceremonies at the Fire Administration, Maintenance, and Training Facility on East Dean Avenue. With recent additions, Fire Chief John TeKippe hopes for his department to be at the authorized strength of 312 personnel, an increase of six by the latest City-approved budget.

Katherine was one of four women in the class—the largest female representation among 97 academy classes.

The City’s Human Resources department, Civil Service Commission, and Des Moines Fire Department (DMFD) are reviewing applicants previously certified by other fire departments for an academy class to begin in August. They are expected to join the department in late November. This would be DMFD’s first pre-certified class.

The 98th Fire Academy started training in January and is scheduled to graduate in early 2023.


Two fire department enhancements rolled out as part of the November 2021 opening of Station 11 will be embraced for all DMFD stations.

The $8.3 million Fire Station 11 at Northeast 42nd Avenue uses a direct-capture device that connects to the fire engine to trap vehicle exhaust when preparing to leave on an alarm, and disconnects when leaving the station. It’s pretty slick to watch the device in action.

A second big change: The DMFD now provides a second set of firefighting gear for all personnel, including firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics. This allows personnel to clean cancer-causing agents from their gear after a call without incurring downtime. “We will do this over more than one budget cycle, so it becomes a regular replacement cycle,” Chief TeKippe says. “It takes advantage of gear with years of remaining useful life and avoids a massive replacement cost several years from now.”

Safety enhancements like these are part of the template for upcoming station designs,” Chief John TeKippe says. “We are also working to see what improvements we can retrofit into stations that will not be replaced for some time.” Before opening Station 11, the newest fire station was Station 1 at 1330 Mulberry, which opened in 2013. Station 4, at 917 University, is the next station slated for replacement; site acquisition, design, award, and construction are projected for 2024 or 2025. Station 4 would continue to be fully staffed while a new station is designed and constructed. Fire medic Tyler Mark created this Station 11 virtual tour. You can schedule an in-person tour for yourself or a group at Station 11 or any station. Contact Lieutenant Rick Thomas at 515-979-6438 or the neighborhood station you wish to visit. SOUND THE ALARM! FREE SMOKE DETECTOR REPLACEMENT FOR TWO NEIGHBORHOODS

When Susan and I were rudely awakened at 4 a.m. one recent morning with four—count ‘em!—direct-wired smoke detectors screaming at us, we dialed 911 and waited outside for a DMFD crew to roll out. Turned out, we were clueless that this is how smoke detectors react when they reach the end of their life expectancy. Who knew that you should replace them every seven to 10 years?

Lieutenant Joe Van Haalen, first out of the truck, nicely explained that when one such direct-wired detector fails, they all join in the chorus. Now we know! It’s not just about the batteries!

On Saturday, May 14, the Indianola Hills and McKinley-Columbus Park neighborhoods are scheduled to host the National Sound the Alarm Event, a free smoke detector installation program organized by the Red Cross, DFMD, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The 115-plus volunteers aim to install dual-sensor (carbon monoxide and smoke) alarms at each home on the appointment list: 300 detectors in one day. Make an appointment today by calling 833-422-1751.


Within the next few weeks, expect to see the remaining trailers crushed and scraped from a troublesome mobile home park near Park and Indianola avenues. Neighborhood Development Corporation (NDC) Executive Director Abbey Gilroy reports that plans are underway for approximately 54 workforce housing units in two buildings.

The NDC, funded in part by the City of Des Moines, recently took over ownership of the two-acre property at 3140 Indianola Road. At the time of purchase, 27 families occupied 30 trailers; city and county staff helped residents relocate.

Because the park originated in the 1950s, before the property was annexed into the City limits, neighborhood inspectors had limited regulations to seek housing compliance.

The City of Des Moines and Polk County Supervisors played vital roles in providing the resources necessary to bring this long-discussed transformation to reality.


The new Metro Recycling Facility (MRF), just north of I-80/35 and the Iowa Highway 141 exit, has proven in five short months to be a game-changer in the recycling world.

This $28 million facility is part of the Metro Waste Authority (MWA) and its 16 member communities, with Adel and Waukee the newest additions.

Billed as one of the USA’s top recycling centers (on par with high-tech facilities in San Francisco and Chicago), the MRF has recycled more than 11,356 tons, primarily from curbside blue recycling bins. That’s the equivalent of 284 semi-trailers maxed to the weight limit.

The MRF processes 17 to 20 tons per hour, thanks to the no-wrap, non-round augers, which separate many materials before they reach the sorting team. The facility is only the second in the world to employ this technology, enabling it to have sold, in five months, about $1.7 million worth of aluminum, milk jugs, aseptic containers such as drink and milk cartons, paper, cardboard, and glass, 115% over budget. Many recycled products from the metro’s previous recycling center were not considered clean enough for purchase.

MRF vendors currently buy fifty-two 1,500-pound bales of aluminum cans each month; each bale represents about 70,000 cans.

MRF doesn’t just handle curbside recycling. For example, it collects pallets it sells by the trailer load. “We have customers lined up to buy as many pallets as possible,” Metro Waste Authority Executive Director Mike McCoy says. “Trucking companies are especially interested.”

One recent tour by a local breakfast group led to the opening of three new MRF accounts. Bob Tursi quickly signed up Exile Brewing to send broken bottles and cardboard directly to the MRF.

Expanding commercial accounts should help contain residential recycling fees, Mike adds. To schedule your tour, email Sarah Borzo, education and outreach coordinator, at:

Mike also reports that many residents are getting better at tossing approved products into recycling bins. The metro-wide contamination rate is 13–17%. However, Des Moines residents lag behind our suburban neighbors: blue-bin contamination in the capital city remains 17–19%. Most frequent banned products: plastic bags, diapers, and clothing.

If you place only qualified objects to be recycled in your bin, you can earn Gold Level distinction. Request an audit today; if you pass muster, you can have your bin’s blue recycling bin lid replaced with a gold one—and be a recycling example for your neighborhood.

Another MWA improvement: You no longer have to wait for the biweekly pickup to dispose of your recyclables. The MWA has opened 16 drop-off facilities around the metro for residents and businesses. Find them here. RIDESHARE VAN KEY TO AFGHAN JOBS AT MRF

Thanks to a DART RideShare van, Abdul-Nawid Mohabati and other Afghan refugees who work at the MRF should soon find it easier to get to their jobs.

Earlier this year, Abdul-Nawid and several refugee friends landed $16-an-hour sorter jobs at the MRF. But transportation was a hurdle.

MWA Executive Director Mike McCoy’s wife, Lisa, drove the group for the first few weeks. Then, Abdul-Nawid earned his driver's license. (A MRF employee loaned his car for Abdul-Nawid’s practice laps around the parking lot during lunch breaks.) Next, Metro Waste employees teamed up with DART to get him in line for a RideShare van.

Abdul-Nawid’s first RideShare trip is slated for May 27. His backup driver is an Afghan friend who served as an interpreter in their home country. In addition to being paid to pick up and ferry the other newly arrived Iowans for their MRF shifts, Abdul-Nawid receives 200 free personal miles per month with the RideShare van.

Abdul-Nawid’s journey provides a snapshot of how collaboration accomplishes great results in Des Moines.


In mid-April, four Des Moines high school athletes were part of a presentation seeking Prairie Meadows supporting dollars for the community stadium under construction for Drake University and Des Moines School District athletics. Teagen O’Brien, a North High sophomore soccer player, spoke first. “North isn’t known for much,” Teagan began. “We’re the high school that everyone looks forward to playing because they think we’re the easy team to beat.

“No, we’re the high school with a chip on all of our shoulders. The high school that works harder and pushes more than any other high school.

“Behind the scenes at practice, we’re going at it 110 percent all the time, every time. We don’t worry about what people say about us. We show up, do the right things, and be great people every day.

“This isn’t just a stadium for middle and high schoolers. No, it’s much more than that. It’s the start of a partnership between DMPS and Drake. It’s the start of something that can offer student-athletes like myself more opportunities to become D1, D2, or D3 athletes.

“If you build this stadium, we will be something.”

Good luck, Teagen. When the stadium is finished, you’ll be a senior and one of the first soccer teams on the pitch.

And good luck to all the Des Moines football, soccer, and band programs eagerly awaiting this community stadium, scheduled to open in Fall 2023.


Five people have been hired to the new Crisis Advocacy Response Effort (CARE) team, a Broadlawns Medical Center group expected to roll out this summer, responding to emergency calls where mental health is a factor.

Working out of the Des Moines police station, team members, including registered nurses, master’s-level psychotherapists, and social workers, participate in crisis-response training. “We will respond to all child, and adult mobile crisis requests through DMPD and other area law enforcement,” Broadlawns Administrator Steve Johnson says.

The City of Des Moines is funding two pediatric CARE clinician positions. (City funding was promised as part of the successful LOSST effort supported by AMOS and others.) “Both nurses have a great background in child mental health,” Steve says, adding that meetings are planned with Des Moines Public Schools staff to see how the program can assist with their child mental-health needs.

Three other CARE team members hold bachelor’s degrees with mental health experience. Referred to as CARE Crisis Advocates, they rotate between working in the DMPD dispatch room to determine the appropriate level of response to a call, and in the field with a CARE Pediatric Clinician. Dispatchers from the three Polk County communication centers—about 100 in all—have received 16 hours of mental health training to aid in the dispatch of the CARE members.

CARE adds to the existing Mobile Crisis Response Team (MCRT), which provides short-term on-site assessment and intervention in emergency situations. Des Moines Police Sergeant Lorna Garcia, who has worked with MCRT for more than five years, reports that a DMPD-added checkbox into the computer-aided call system prompts a dispatcher to transfer the call to a CARE Crisis Advocate if a call is determined to have a mental-health component.

Added tracking data should guide the CARE team on how the program should evolve. An ultimate goal of this new program is to handle such calls independently over the phone, saving time, money, and possible tragedy.

All CARE team members will drive unmarked vehicles and wear a Broadlawns lanyard and attire for identification.

NEW TRAIL MAPS ARE AVAILABLE The 2022 Greater Des Moines Regional Trails map is available at local bike shops and through Des Moines Parks and Recreation. This year’s edition, its 13th, has moved to a larger format and includes 50 updates and expanded trail detail. The Street Collective updates the map each year; more than 400,000 maps have been printed since its inception. This year’s version features Scott Bents with twin 4-year-old daughters biking on the Waveland Trail. Scott bikes the twins around Des Moines on an Urban Arrow Family electric cargo bike—yes, e-cargo bikes are now a thing in the cycling community. Dan Koenig at Ichi Bikes reports an uptick in e-cargo bike sales that matches national trends. The New York Times reports that e-cargo bikes are popular ways for parents to ferry kids.


“Hey, you can’t get any more local than me,” local artist Jimmy Navarro exclaims. When he sets up his Des Moines Arts Festival booth, scheduled for June 24–26 in Western Gateway Park, Jimmy, who paints at Crane Artist Lofts at 15th and Walnut streets, expects just a short walk. And this local artist might be walking on air about being juried into the prestigious show for the first time. He intends to have artwork from 5 x 7 inches to 60 x 60-inch canvases—something original to fit many pocketbooks.

“Last year was a really good year for me,” Jimmy says while detailing another canvas in his first-floor studio. “I’m 50 years old now, and I feel like things are finally coming to fruition. Everything I wanted at 25, I’m getting now.”

Liz Lidgett, who represents Jimmy at her East Village gallery, couldn’t be prouder.

“Jimmy has passion and energy that he channels into his beautifully vivid Plein-air paintings,” Liz says. “I’ll always be jealous of his ability to see something and perfectly represent it on canvas. We’ve done so many commissions and murals with Jimmy because he has this connection with his paintbrush to create whatever he decides.”

One of Liz’s favorite things about Jimmy’s work is his bold use of colors such as orange, hot pink, and purple skies and sunsets. “You feel like Jimmy captured a perfect moment in time when Mother Nature was really showing off,” she says.

Also, Jimmy’s 2021 larger-than-life murals wrapping around a cinderblock building at the Iowa State Fairgrounds caught the attention of many visitors. Here’s a time-lapse video of Jimmy’s work.

Jimmy often connects with the Iowa landscape and city views while running or biking. In 2020, he was part of Taylor Ross’ support crew when Taylor set an elapsed-time record for running across Iowa from Muscatine to Council Bluffs along Highway 92. “I filled up my smartphone with scenes I’m still painting,” Jimmy says of the nearly five days accompanying Taylor.

Before committing oil to canvas, Jimmy revisits some locations multiple times during the day to capture the changing light. One downtown Des Moines scene he is working on encapsulated 22 trips.

After the Des Moines festival, Jimmy will participate in the Door County Plein Air Festival,

followed by a three-week residency at White Rock Conservancy—all the makings of another good year for Jimmy.

Eric Burmeister, Polk County Housing Trust Fund; Angela Connolly, Polk County supervisor; and Michael Kiernan, a general partner, walk through the 6th Avenue Flats.


Located just north of University Avenue in the River Bend Neighborhood, the 6th Avenue Flats plans to begin leasing on June 30, after a November fire pushed the project back several months. City Council, county, and nonprofit leaders toured the site earlier after the fire damage was abated and construction crews were rolling again.

The project shows a preference for young adults aged out of foster care who have the ability and interest to enroll in the DMACC Urban Campus, blocks away. Youth and Shelter Services (YSS) will occupy first-floor offices in the five-story building. The remaining apartments will be leased to adults who earn 60% of the area median income, which is $54,780 for a family of four.

Many of the 38 one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments have incredible views of the city. Five first-floor live-work lofts could appeal to retailers or entrepreneurs.

The Iowa Finance Authority, City of Des Moines, and Polk County Housing Trust Fund provided public financing.

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You don’t have to be a traffic engineer to notice that heavy truck traffic is going off the rails in and around Des Moines. Soon, more of that traffic will be going onto rails instead.

Last month, the first railcars were unloaded at the new 35-acre Des Moines Industrial transload terminal on East ML King Jr. Blvd, at the intersection of the Norfolk Southern, BNSF, and Iowa Interstate rail lines. According to COO Gabe Claypool, 11 railcars hauling 90 tons of 20-foot-long rebar bundles from a steel mill south of Dallas relieved the Interstates of bearing a convoy of 44 semis. The rebar will be trucked to Central Iowa job sites.

The transload facility was born out of a Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) project. The Des Moines Area MPO also raised nearly $13 million in public funds for the project, including an $11.2 million Better Utilizing Infrastructure to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Gabe reports a lumber contract was recently inked up; several more contracts are in progress.


Des Moines is on the threshold of creating its own Vision Zero program, joining 40 or more U.S. cities that have embraced plans to eliminate traffic fatalities and severe injuries.

At its March 21 meeting, the City Council approved a $223,445 contract with Toole Design Group to create a Vision Zero plan for Des Moines. Toole’s work will engage local stakeholders and take about 12 months to produce. Toole created the Vision Zero plans the Minneapolis, Denver, Boston, Long Beach, and other major cities.

In other cities that have embraced the Vision Zero planning:

• Traffic deaths are preventable

• Safety trumps speed

• Reduce school zone speed limits to 15 or 20 mph

• Safer pedestrians crossings (extended medians and continental striping)

• Multi-year action plans to integrate Vision Zero policies and design recommendations with engineering plans and budgets

Many cities incorporate Rapid Delivery Projects (RDP)—street changes implemented in six months or less using interim materials such as pavement markings, colored paint and pavement treatments, flexible delineators, changes to signage or traffic signal timing, and changes to the speed limit.

Let the planning begin!

More details:


Invest DSM, which offers grants to homeowners to improve their property, had a banner 2021. Here’s what the numbers say:

  • Homeowner applications from the four Special Investment Districts (Oak Park/Highland Park, Drake, Franklin Area, and Columbus Park neighborhoods): 454

  • Total completed project costs: $2,442,265

  • Total final Invest DSM grant amounts: $879,863

  • Total final homeowner investment: $1,562,401

  • Per-grant-dollar homeowner investment: $1.75

The City of Des Moines and Polk County Supervisors are equal partners in supporting Invest DSM, a nonprofit, to strengthen neighborhoods.

Read more:

In 2021, the City Council initiated a city-wide pilot Block Challenge Grant program, modeled after Invest DSM, for all neighborhoods:

  • Homeowner participants: 120

  • Total completed project costs: $464,732

  • Total City grant amounts: $253,530

  • Total final homeowner investment: $718,263

  • Per-grant-dollar homeowner investment: $1.71

TWO COLEMANS, ONE ‘MOM’ MESSAGE: 'BE NICE ' One paragraph jumped off the page of a March 11 Business Record profile of Tony Coleman, new CEO of Broadlawns Medical Center. When Joe Gardyasz asked Tony about the best advice received from an important mentor, he responded that his mother’s “Be Nice!” mantra has resonated through his life. “It’s nice to be nice,” Tony said. “And that simply means to treat everybody with dignity and respect.”

Tony’s guiding-light words echo those of another Coleman. In December 2019, when Chris Coleman finished two decades of public service as an at-large city council member, Chris taped his mom’s mantra message (see photo left) at each of our voting buttons. Terrific—make that nice!—messaging in these tumultuous times with anemic civility.


City of Des Moines departments are beginning to tally key 2021 achievements. Here’s a snapshot of two early reports:


  • 60.1% increase in eBook circulation (140,388 downloads)

  • 56% increase in eAudiobook circulation (128,603 downloads).

Here’s the complete report.

Parks & Recreation:

  • 16,726 Youth Recreational Scholarships

  • 2,304 park volunteers

  • 21,307 volunteer hours

  • $608,115 value of donated time.

Here’s the complete report.


Earlier this year, Brad Nielsen and ten friends pooled donations to purchase a shiny green Dero FixIt station that will be installed Monday at the YMCA Supportive Housing Campus at 2 SW Ninth Street. It’s the same top-quality bike repair stand and sturdy pump many of us have seen along high-traffic trail locations.

Brooke Heldt, YMCA community engagement director, reports that generally, 20 bikes are parked outside the facility, whose 140 apartments serve men and women, and another 10 bikes stored in residents’ rooms.


“Primary Health Care. Anyone home?”

With that announcement, Rob Zlomke, street outreach worker for Primary Health Care, walks into another homeless encampment in Des Moines. It’s a routine he repeats daily.

In late January, nonprofit employees who serve the homeless population conducted their semi-annual Point In Time (PIT) count of the Des Moines homeless populations. They counted 88 individuals outside, plus an additional 45 who took advantage of free motel rooms, provided by Des Moines and Polk County, during cold snaps.

Rob, who has been working with homeless people in Des Moines for five years, knows just about all of them by name. And makes himself known to each new face.

On a recent morning, I shadowed Rob and Amy Miers, a Supportive Services for Veterans caseworker, picking our way through a faint trail to check out Billy, who has a remote brush-covered tent on the north side of Des Moines. Rob provides Billy with a DART pass so he can check in weekly with his parole officer. Before leaving, Rob produces a handful of batteries for Billy’s LED headlamp.

Next stop: an encampment of several tents, where Scrappy has made a home for several months but will vacate, acceding to the property owner’s wishes. Michael, newly tenting beside Scrappy, needs a birth certificate to apply for a job. He also needs medical assistance to check on a nasty lower-leg infection. Rob informs Michael where he can seek free medical help.

We counted at least six tents tucked among towering trees at an encampment along East Side railroad tracks. One man was digging a deep hidey-hole beneath his tent to ride out any storm; he feared one of the trees would crush him and his tent during a spring rain. Another camper was fashioning a bike trailer from a stack of repurposed aluminum tubing. Both welcomed replenished supplies from Rob’s well-stocked car trunk: peanut butter, hand warmers, soup mix, AA batteries, noodles, and clean socks.

We swung through downtown to drop by a couple of locations where Rob expected to see some of his regulars. Not today. So we set out on a zigzag route through downtown parking lots and warehouses to a patch of asphalt. A short hike over a levee took us to a string of tents dotting the north bank of the Raccoon River. Some of the homeless have relocated their tents farther away from the Raccoon in expectation of rising waters.

Rob’s “Anyone home?” drew a couple of people from their tents. Rob reminded both that several agencies now staff the Outreach Project, a drop-in center at the Des Moines Central Library on Mondays and Friday afternoons. There, they can complete paperwork for a replacement Social Security card, apply for a government-issued cell phone, send an email to a family member, and schedule a mental health appointment.

Rob shared that beginning in April, the Bike Collective will begin free tune-ups at the library for the homeless on alternate Tuesday afternoons.


Last year’s Wild Lights Festival at the Blank Park Zoo, presented by MidAmerican Energy, was a roaring-lion success, with the 42,000 tickets sold doubling the budgeted attendance of 20,000.

This year’s two-month (44-date) version of the Wednesday–Sunday evening amazement opens April 1. Look for a new lineup of 40 larger-than-life illuminated lanterns featuring endangered animals and Asian mythical creatures.

View ticket details.

POTHOLE SEASON Robins have returned in Des Moines neighborhoods (yea!), and so have potholes (ugh). You can help our Public Works crews locate potholes you drive across (or into) by logging potholes via the myDSMmobile app. Also, you can use the app to report graffiti, streetlight outages, weeds, and a dozen other issues. Several residents have reported potholes filled within two days after reporting via the easy-peasy smartphone app. Free Android and iOS versions are available.


The Des Moines Area Religious Council (DMARC) has scheduled a May 26 grand opening for its new offices and warehouse at 100 Army Post Road (originally built as an Albertson’s grocery store). Best known for its Food Pantry Network serving 34,000 annually, DMARC has started moving offices from 1435 Mulberry and a warehouse near East ML King.

A few weeks ago, Leslie Garman, director of development and outreach, gave Ward IV Council Member Joe Gatto and me an early peek facility, resulting in a definite “wow.” The new 48,000-square-foot building dwarfs the DMARC 1970s offices: 1,000 square feet tucked into a corner of Central Presbyterian Church, or about the size of one of the new volunteer training rooms. The warehouse alone is four times larger than its current space.

DMARC has grown to include more than 130 Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Unitarian places of worship, representing nearly 70,000 congregants. DMARC also engages with followers of Baha’i, Buddhist, and Native American faith traditions. Learn more about DMARC.


(From Kathy Barnes, Food Security Task Force member)

It’s spring! Now’s the time to plan, plant, and prepare your garden spaces for the season. Here are a few tips to get your growing (and enjoying) delicious, healthy foods in your yard.

First, check out FEED DSM, Des Moines’ new resource for producing food in the city. You’ll find information on how to grow food, what’s available and allowed in Des Moines, and where you can find additional guidance and support.

As you plot out your garden, develop a plan to rotate crops during consecutive growing seasons. This helps keep the soil healthy and pests at bay. For example, if you grew tomatoes in one spot last year, plant a legume (such as peas or beans) in that space this year, and move the tomatoes to a new place.

Here are a few early-spring crops you can plant directly in the ground as soon as the soil temperature persists above 40 degrees: arugula, beets, carrots, kale, lettuce, peas, radishes, and spinach.

Not sure what to plant and when? The National Gardening Association provides this handy Garden Planting Calendar. Enter your ZIP code, and you’ll get the information you need, specific to your growing area.


“It’s a little gritty, a little dirty,” Lewis Major describes the sound from his treasured three-string cigar box guitar. But when Lewis cranks it up, the sound transports blues fans to the roots of Sweet Home Chicago.

“Early blues musicians could rarely afford a factory-built guitar,” Lewis says, “so they made their own instruments using items they could easily obtain—wire, an empty cigar box, and a piece of wood. They're not fancy, but they get the job done. More importantly, homemade instruments like CBGs were instrumental in forming one of the most influential American music ever created—the blues.”

When he plays with the local blues band Major Blues and the Mugshots, which he did for a couple of Sunday gigs this past winter at the Botanical Blues at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Center, Lewis switches from his reliable Fender Telecaster to his CBG for two or three numbers. His favorite CBG tunes are “Death Letter Blues” by Son House and “Come in My Kitchen” by Robert Johnson.

A friend in Eastern Iowa handcrafted Lewis' CBG; it was the maker's first attempt at adding a pickup that allows the CRG to be plugged into an amplifier. When plugged in, the sound is raw, honest, and original—just like the blues.

You can see and hear Major Blues and the Mugshots perform and hear a cigar box guitar when they perform Thursday, June 23, at the Jester Park Nature Center from 6 to 8 p.m.

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