Evins Foundation Developing Natural Park Downtown

October 18, 2007
Dwayne Page

The Evins Foundation, in association with the Off the Beaten Path Studio Tour, is developing a natural park on the vacant lot behind city hall and across from the Smithville Post Office downtown.

The foundation is working with William Kooienga and OBP artists to create the park.

Kooienga told WJLE Thursday that the park is a dream come true for the daughters of the late Congressman Joe L. Evins, Jane Evins Leonard, Mary Evins Overton, and Joanna Evins Carnahan, members of the foundation. "Joe L. Evins left that lot, which was part of his homestead, to the foundation more than twenty years ago on which to build a park. They have been trying to get a park there for many years. Different groups have tried to help and city officials were consulted about it several times."

Kooienga says artists of the Off the Beaten Path Studio Tour, who host the fall event, were looking for a place to do a summer activity and thought this lot would be the perfect location." I liked that space. It's open, close to town, and near the highway. The more I looked at it, I thought, boy, wouldn't it be nice if the city had a park there. I later met with Mr. Evins' daughters and they asked me to design the park. I did that and we decided to go ahead and build it. We started working on it this week."

"It's going to be very natural, kind of a nature space. It'll have curvy paths through the park. There'll be huge boulders, earth berms, and a lot of trees planted around the perimeter. "It'll have an open space in the middle so that campers can still put up tents. They won't be able to pull in motor homes, but they'll be able to put tents in there for the Jamboree and that space could also be used for picnics or for kids to play frisbee or football. There'll be a small stage in one corner so that during the Jamboree, if they want an alternate stage for small performances they will have one. There'll be benches so people can come from downtown to have their lunch. Hopefully, it will be a real peaceful natural space close to town."

Kooienga says donations and volunteer help is desired and appreciated. I've designed it and will oversee the construction. There's not a lot of money for the park so we're trying to get volunteers to donate as much as we can. I'm donating my time and others have come forward to help out. The foundation will own the park and take responsibility for it. Hopefully, the city will keep on mowing the grass like they have been in the past."

He adds that the park should be finished by next spring. "We're going to take a few days off for the tour but right after that we will get back to work on it. Hopefully by late spring it will be finished. That's the plan. We're going to see if some of the nurseries will donate and plant the trees. The fire department is under construction next door and they have agreed to let us take those trees that were planted around the parking lot and move those over to be transplanted in the park."

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