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Let's Catch Up - November 2022

Updated: Jan 6, 2023


It’ll be looking a lot like Christmas soon, when City facilities will begin displaying 500 poinsettias. For years, the flowers have been nurturing in the City’s aging greenhouse, at 2501 Murray Street. But Colt Stephens, the City’s horticulture technician, above, is eagerly awaiting the completion in fall 2023 of a new energy-efficient greenhouse. It’ll be located near the City’s $12.4 million animal shelter—also under construction—on Harriet Street east of Southeast 14th Street. The city greenhouse annually grows over 230,000 flowers and plants for public spaces such as rights-of-ways, street corners, parkways, and land owned by nonprofit groups and the school district. The city’s parks department oversees greenhouse operations. The new greenhouse will include 14,256 square feet of production space and 3,456 square feet for offices, volunteer space, storage, and restrooms. GTG Construction of Johnston, a firm that has built several commercial greenhouses, was awarded the $4.4 million contract. The existing greenhouse, designed as an economic structure, has limped along well past its lifetime. For example, the roof, made of two layers of plastic sheet, requires frequent recoating and replacement. The new greenhouse design has a glass roof and will use natural ventilation, as well as shade curtains for light and thermal control. Colt expects that the roof will allow quieter, less-oppressive conditions for the army of volunteers who descend on the greenhouse. “When the temperature inside gets over 85 degrees,” Colts says about the current facility, “we have to send the volunteers home. The new facility will be a much nicer growing environment, too.” Volunteers play an integral role in operations since the greenhouse has just two full-time employees and one part-time employee. In pre-COVID years, about 500 volunteers donated more than 2,000 hours annually that included growing:

  • 1,250 plants for the Environmental Education Program

  • 5,850 native plants for parks, neighborhood groups, and recreation programs

  • 10,000 plants for cemetery operations

  • 40,600 plants for the Neighborhood Flower Program

  • 47,755 plants for Fleur Drive and Water Works Park and

  • 48,000 plants for Parks & Recreation complexes, community recreations centers, and downtown planter program

Jim Hoff, the City’s facilities manager, expects the new all-electric greenhouse to meet LEED Gold certification. In addition, when the adjacent solar field is up and running (out of bid now; estimated early 2024 completion), the new facility will be the City’s first net-zero building. The 200-kilowatt solar array is expected to produce enough energy to meet 100 percent of the greenhouse’s energy demand. After completion, the production area could be expanded as funding allows by replacing existing fixed benches with new rolling benches. Those will increase the indoor production area over the current area.


This fall, 15 volunteers contributed 101 hours to save the City of Des Moines $43,000. How? By assembling a new playground for Evergreen Park at 2000 Evergreen Avenue. Lee Wheelock, Des Moines Parks and Recreation park planner, reports that as a general rule, installing standard playground equipment runs around 30% of the equipment cost. Because of the volunteer-supplied value, the City ordered a larger playground structure and stayed within budget.

More volunteers are needed in 2023! To learn how, email

Evergreen was the only City park playground added in 2022. But 2023 has the makings of a banner year. The highlight is the renovation of Union Park’s historic Rocket Slide and safety surfacing upgrades. Daniel Calvert, the City’s planning and development administrator, reports these playgrounds, spraygrounds, basketball courts, and futsal courts also should be completed in 2023:

  • Brook Run Park: ADA equipment and safety surfacing upgrades

  • Burke Park: new sprayground, plus playground upgrades and new safety surfaces

  • Chesterfield and MacRae parks: completion of playgrounds and spraygrounds

  • Chesterfield and Stone parks: Futsal Kick It Forward Mini-Pitch Systems and lighting

  • Evelyn K. Davis Park: two new basketball courts and lighting

  • Evergreen and Tower parks: lighting systems for Futsal Kick It Forward Mini-Pitch Systems (installed in 2022)

  • Frisbee, McHenry, and Sheridan parks: new playgrounds

Also, the City has striped all 52 municipal tennis courts for pickleball. The first dedicated pickleball courts, in Stone Park, are tentatively scheduled for opening in early 2025.


Sheena Rose, above left, designer of seven DART bus shelters in the Sixth Avenue Corridor, was in Des Moines this fall to celebrate the completed shelters plus a ginormous palette: a DART bus wrap commissioned by the Greater Des Moines Public Art Foundation. Standing beside Sheena is her mother, Elaine Rose of Barbados.

Learn more about Sheena and her Des Moines projects. MEREDITH TRAIL REOPENING NOW SCHEDULED FOR DECEMBER 5

The reopening of the Meredith Trail along the Raccoon River (Ninth Street to Third Street) has been closed on both sides of the river for most of 2022 to raise protective levees. It is now scheduled to reopen on December 5.


Renee Hardman, far right, Broadlawns Medical Center vice president of human resources, hugs Jacquita Suykes following October 27 graduation ceremonies for the Training and Education for Adults seeking a Career in Healthcare (TEACH) program. Jacquita, who landed a job in the Broadlawns emergency room, was named the class Natural Leader. She intends to complete additional classes to qualify as a registered nurse.

Throughout its six years, the Broadlawns program has graduated 50 cohorts who completed the eight-week certified nursing assistant (CNA) program and earned six DMACC credits Learn more about complete basic and advanced certified nursing assistant (CNA) programs.

Chris Kuhl, Des Moines engineering department, and Dale Hadsall, Jasper Construction Services general superintendent, try out the new tables and benches outside Zanzibar’s Coffee at 28th and Ingersoll. PHOTO: Lauren Kollauf


A year ago, local restaurateur Tony Lemmo rang me up to suggest that the Ingersoll Avenue reconstruction create ample usable space for a couple of chairs and benches outside his favorite coffee shop, Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventure. So, with a green light from Zanzibar’s owner, Julie McGuire, a plan was set in motion to juggle the space outside her coffee shop at 2723 Ingersoll. Chris Kuhl, the City engineer in charge of the Ingersoll project, and Jeff Wiggins, the City’s transportation planner, confirmed that the timing was good and changes could be made. Yes, space for two tables with benches. Check.

With the City’s okay, others were looped in, including Lauren Kollauf, The Avenues of Ingersoll and Grand executive director; Scott Almeida of Kirkham Michael, Ingersoll design project manager; Confluence landscaping subcontractor Jim Host; and Dale Hadsall, Jasper Construction Services general superintendent. Two tables and four benches were ordered in May. Julie and her staff provided temporary tables and chairs until the concrete fixtures were installed in late October.

Lauren hinted at more outdoor seating on the Ingersoll corridor in the upcoming reconstruction phases.


Twelve Des Moines Fire Department recruits were sworn

Braulio Flores and his wife, Kaylee, pose for photos at the graduation ceremony.

in Friday afternoon, the first graduating class of certified firefighter paramedics who began careers in other departments. Jacob Dicks, foreground, who joined the force from Kansas City, Kansas, was among those sworn in. In the background are Joseph Michell from Urbandale and Jack Magnussen from the Ankeny force. The newly minted Des Moines firefighters previously served in surrounding communities, Fort Dodge, Cedar Rapids, and departments in Kansas and Kentucky.

A typical class lasts 12 to 18 months; this 99th graduating class completed training in just 81 days.

Training never stops! The next graduation will be in January 2023. And there’s a new class of 25 already selected to start training in January.


This summer, the Des Moines Public Library hit it out of the park with its 2022 All Summer Long program, open to kids from newborn to 18 years. Each child received a free book of their choice for registering. Ashley Molzen, the library’s community engagement supervisor, reports that Library staff hosted 327 free educational programs for kids and 52 teen programs around the City. Also:

  • 686 new library cards were distributed

  • 831 hours of teen service were volunteered to support youth programming

  • 8,085 new books were distributed to build personal home libraries

  • 10,393 youths attended summer programs and

  • 14,424 hours of reading logged by participants

Graphic novels and teen fiction books were very popular. “Kids loved any of our ‘I survived... titles, Ashley says. One popular title: I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912 by Lauren Tarshis. Teens also loved Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia.

“All of our libraries and their surrounding communities showed up in a huge way to earn prizes by reading and attending our programs all summer,” Ashley says. “The Forest Avenue Library signed up four times as many kids in 2022 as they did in 2018 by going out into the community, and that is certainly worth noting!”

To assist new visitors, the library recently translated its Simple Steps to Success handout for early literacy into 11 languages. Here are the details.

Based on this summer’s successes, the Des Moines City Council enthusiastically voted to award Library staff $1 million in ARPA funding to expand early literacy programs.


It’s pretty well known that Europeans take their coffee seriously. And it’s not just about the java—the European coffee culture is rapidly moving away from the single-use containers that we Americans toss in the trash without a thought. According to one study, the average coffee drinker throws away 200 cups annually. Or another way: 600 billion coffee containers are dumped in the trash annually. That’s a mountain of trash!

And that garbage is expensive. Daniel Bosman, the owner of Daisy Chain Coffee in the East Village, reports the cost of a case (1,000 count) of 16-ounce cups has jumped from $80 to $147, and lids from $50 to $96. That’s about 25 cents tossed in the trash with each cup—not including disposal costs. Yikes!

So far, only a handful of Des Moines-area coffee shops promote reusable containers or provide a discount for customers toting a container. Horizon Line is one exception. In August 2019, Horizon Line switched to reusable glass jars or mugs for all coffee sales.

A British company, Circular & Co. makes the 12 oz insulated travel mug, above, from six disposal paper cups—about 40 percent of the total content.

Council member Joe Gatto, his daughter, Maria Taylor; and granddaughters Gianna, left, and Gemma, were on hand for lighting of the tree north of the Brenton Skating Plaza.


The 21st annual East Village Holiday Promenade kicked off November 18 with carolers, tree lighting, a Santa visit, and the official opening of the Brenton Skating Plaza.

This year’s events stretch over five Friday evenings—all with open shops and free on-street parking from 5 to 9 pm. The December 16 promenade wraps up with a MidAmerican Energy winter fireworks spectacular.



Beggar’s Afternoon: Capitol Park Neighborhood hosted a Sunday afternoon celebration on October 30 in Burke Park with a Dia de Los Muertos flavor. Carver Elementary fifth grader

Josslyn Avon, left, was traditionally costumed by her mother, Nicole Avon. The activities drew about 150 neighbors. . . . Beggar’s Night street closures: Union Park Neighborhood closed Thompson Avenue east of East 14th for Beggar’s Night crowds. In the Westwood neighborhood, 51st Street was closed south of Grand for the ghosts, goblins, parents, and grandparents. Street closure expenses were less than $100. . . . Sunday afternoon meeting: In a departure from evening meetings, the Waveland Park Neighborhood Association held its annual meeting on Sunday afternoon, October 23, at the Waveland Golf Course, allowing families to bring kids. Waveland Golf pizza and a live band—Abbie & and The Sawyers—helped draw a crowd. . . . Neighborhoods merge: This month, three neighborhoods—Magnolia Park, South Park, and Fort Des Moines—merged into the South Central DSM Neighborhood Association.


I wish I had a dollar for every friend on edge about attending family gatherings this year—events that may most assuredly devolve into heated discussions around that nasty “P”word, as in politics.

Charlotte Lamb, my mother-in-law, once related that she knew it was time to gather up the family from the Lamb reunion in Grinnell when the brothers, uncles, and cousins raised their voices and got into it. Again.

Yep. Back in the day, it was all about Ford vs. Chevy.

Oh, wouldn’t we all wish for a throw-back argument over cars? Or even red vs. green tractors? Anything but that P word.

Enjoy holiday gatherings—as best you can.

Fresh eyes: Thanks to copyeditor Ira Lacher for his keen skills.

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Laura Wilkens
Laura Wilkens
Nov 29, 2022

I always love your updates on Des Moines and learn things I have missed out on. Thank you.

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