Little things matter. Think back on your earliest childhood memories. Chances are they are not of expensive vacations to fancy theme parks, or elaborate shopping malls.
The sweetest of memories are probably of a dirt ballfield down the street where you played catch with your dad, a little swimming hole at the lake (and you know you still remember the feel of wet sand squishing between your toes) or maybe a rusty rocket slide where the whole neighborhood went to play.
It's not that I don't dig multi-million-dollar resorts and thrill-slide waterparks and such, it's just that I used to be a kid, and to kids, playing with the box is usually more fun than the toy.
Little things matter. And that's why I think the City of Storm Lake is doing an awesome thing with its idea for a neighborhood park at the corner where Joyce's greenhouse burned down a few years ago.
In the big scheme of things, a little park on a couple of bare lots isn't a headline grabber. But, if you're a kid in that neighborhood, where there are no parks or places to play, it's a life changer.
Thank Jason Etnyre, who had already proved his value in thinking outside the box (the mind behind outrageously successful goatpower in Storm Lake, no less). The infastructure director proposed the idea, and the city council voted unanimously to jump on board. With a grant application due soon, it all happened pretty rapidly, but sometimes the best stuff does. Being timid doesn't get you much.
Look, nothing comes for free, but this is about as close as you can get.
The downside is that a couple of lots come off the tax rolls, and in a property-tight town, a spot for two houses or a small apartment building are off the market.
But that site has sat empty and less than lovely for a long time, now, and we don't see developers standing in line.
If the City is successful is seeking a grant designed for public green spaces, the cost of purchasing the property would be basically covered. The only cost to taxpayers would be whatever improvements might be made to the space. And councilman Dan Anderson noted earlier in the same meeting that he's just heard some interest from people who might like to donate playground equipment.
Don't you love when fates sort of fall in line?
Storm Lake is blessed with parks aplenty, but they are all pretty much located along the lakeshore. High numbers of kids reside in neighborhoods far removed from the City's showcase green spaces.
This site would also be a short distance from the AEA building, the high school and Iowa Central - with a few benches and some landscaping that our parks crew can do, it would be a nice place to take a break between classes in the spring or fall. Parents picking up their kids from the Early Childhood Center would have a nice place to wait and read a book.
This grant program is a nice one - with a cap of $120,000 it's not going to build any Taj Mahals, but it is going to help towns all over the state to turn eyesores and blank spots into lovely green spaces where children will laugh, run and play.
If it'll help, let's get a boxload of letters of support.
And every grant cycle for this particular source of funding, let's hit it again, and slowly turn scaps of vacant or ugly property into something useful that we can take pride in.
Some of those ratty areas at the community's entryways could use some improvement, too, if only a small flower garden or gazebo.
Maybe we're naive to think that parks matter in age age of satellite dishes. That teeter-totters and little slides make a difference when kids are tied into the internet via latop and tablet and smart phone. That a half-court basketball hoop stands a chance against X-box and PlayStation 4. But we do.
The outdoors will be making a comeback.
And it would be great for our community to be able to say that every kid in town has at least a small park or play area within walking or biking distance.
Little things matter. Neighborhood matter. Kids matter. Good call, city council.