An open green area with space for adults to play Frisbee and other activities is part of a proposed plan for a trestle-themed park in Manning.
An open green area with space for adults to play Frisbee and other activities is part of a proposed plan for a trestle-themed park in Manning.

It's not much more than displaced dirt right now, but Manning’s new Trestle Park is approaching a reality with the completion of colorful designs that soon will move from paper to ground.

Representatives from the Community Visioning Program recently presented mostly finalized designs and plans for a variety of projects that have been earmarked for potential completion in Manning in the coming months and years.

The plans, which encompass five separate landscaping and beautification projects that could be implemented in and around Manning, came with an estimated $2.5 million price tag. However, Manning wouldn’t plan on forking over that much, said Ron Reischl, board president of Main Street Manning.

“Even if we do all of these, we’ll do it for less,” he said.

For one thing, the city’s relationship with colleges and universities will allow it to move forward with some of the proposed projects with the help of students looking for hands-on experience. To move forward with one of the proposed projects, Manning is working with Iowa State University College of Design students to help design four signs that would be situated along Highway 141 and would feature four of Manning’s main attractions — the water tower, the railroad trestle, the German Hausbarn and Trinity Church.

The best-known project on the list is a trestle-themed park that will lie along Manning’s north side. Others include additional greenery and ornamentation along Main Street, a downtown “green space” at the juncture of Main Street and Highway 141 and a sign marking the entrance to Great Western Park.

Plans for the trestle park have been in the works for some time after the need for a space catering to young adults was identified.

“We already have a nice children’s park in Manning,” Reischl previously said. “We have none oriented to young adults, who are certainly the future of the community.”

The plans for the park include a “natural play area” for children, incorporating elements such as a slide that, rather than having children climb steps, starts at the top of a hill. Nearby is open space for adults to play Frisbee and areas for sand volleyball, bags and barbecuing.

Funds for the first phase, which includes those elements and more, have been raised, Reischl said. Because of a timeline attached to one of the grants benefiting the project, the park will be completed by the end of next year. Later additions could add space for campers, tents and other activities.

The downtown green space designs include a movable corner stage and amphitheater with sound barriers, as well as landscaping to create an attractive entrance to the city’s downtown.

“The big part of doing something at Highway 141 was to draw people’s attention to that corner — to say, ‘You’re at Main Street. You’re downtown. You’re at the heart of Manning,’” said Jen Cross, a landscape architect with RDG Planning & Design’s Omaha office, at a recent design meeting in Manning.

The plans for Great Western Park are simpler — a sign marking the park’s entrance, for now, although efforts to make certain areas of the park more handicap-accessible could be incorporated as well, Reischl said.

The final plans presented to the city through the Community Visioning program aren’t set in stone, he said — for instance, the plans for Main Street include adding trees along the sides of the road, while the city might first focus on grading tall curbs to make them more easily accessible.

This is the second time Manning has undergone the Iowa’s Living Roadways Community Visioning Program, created through a partnership between the Iowa Department of Transportation and Iowa State University Extension Landscape Architecture and Trees Forever. The program, offered to cities with a population of less than 10,000, requires cities chosen to participate to earmark $2,000 that will remain in the city and be used for one of the proposed projects. Trees Forever, landscape architects and other agencies then work with the city to develop and incorporate beautification, design and transportation improvement ideas.

Manning first went through the program in 2012. Ideas proposed at the time included enhancing the area’s trail system and adding amenities along the trails, developing signage and logos for the city, enhancing Main Street with street trees, bike racks and flower baskets and incorporating landscaping themes and planting native species along Highway 141.

Once Manning exhausted those ideas, incorporating many of them, the city returned to Community Visioning with a new slate of proposals and was accepted to once again undergo the planning and design program. These ideas are the result of the second collaboration. Manning is one of 10 Iowa communities participating in the program this year, and one of only a few that have done so twice.

What cities do with the ideas developed through the Community Visioning program is up to them — it depends on their initiative and funding, said Brad Riphagen, field coordinator with Trees Forever, recently.

Whether the projects get going is a matter of finding dollars,” he said. “Manning has been very successful at finding the dollars.”