Improvements planned for Hansen Arts Park in Jamestown
Local clubs and others are funding a sprinkler system, sod planting and installation of native plants
JAMESTOWN – Ken McDougall and his wife, Rosemary, decided to sponsor one of the concrete benches at the Hansen Arts Park in 2021. A group of 18 people worked in the McDougalls’ garage on the mosaic tiles that would decorate the bench, he said, which would then be installed in the Arts Park. Their daughter-in-law designed the mosaic and she was going to fly in from Michigan for the dedication.
“And we go down to look at the bench (at the Hansen Art Park) and because of the drought, the grass was all dead,” McDougall said. “It was just weeds growing there and the flowers, a lot of them had died. … I would dare say that we felt bad that we were going to have this bench dedication and things were in kind of such poor shape.”
Rosemary worked four to eight hours a week weeding and watering in the Arts Park after that, Ken said, and he helped too.
“But we came up with the idea that OK, they need a sprinkler system in this park so they can keep the grass,’” McDougall said. “The staff at The Arts Center don’t have time to go across the street and move sprinkler heads and keep things going.”
Through the efforts of McDougall and others, a new sprinkler system, native plantings and sod will be installed at the Arts Park this spring. The goal is to have the project completed by July 7, when the first Downtown Arts Market is scheduled in the Hansen Arts Park, McDougall said.
After the McDougalls came up with the idea, Ken brought it to the James Valley Pheasants Forever, of which he is a member, and sought the club’s support. Pheasants Forever’s mission is to conserve pheasants, quail and other wildlife through habitat improvements, public access, education and conservation advocacy, according to pheasantsforever.org.
With the local group’s pledge of funds along with individuals’ support, he approached Mindi Schmitz, executive director at The Arts Center, about the idea, and the center’s board approved the project too.
“They’ve been super volunteers in the park and they work hard and they know the state that the park was in and knew we needed to make some improvements,” Schmitz said of the McDougalls. “And for them to take that on on a volunteer basis, that was just very welcoming.”
Schmitz remembers what it was like to keep up the grass and the flowers in the summer of 2021.
“During the drought, we had to go over there and water continuously,” she said, using a limited number of water spouts. “So it was a weeklong venture to go over there and move the sprinkler heads around and then some of the hoses didn’t quite reach and so the grass just was dead or it just grew with weeds and it was a mess.”
McDougall came up with a $26,000 budget for the project, noting the sprinkler system is more than half of that budget and the sod is also a top expense. The project is being funded through primary support from James Valley Pheasants Forever, Rotary Club and the Jamestown Community Foundation. Other clubs and supporters have contributed, and a third of the cost of the plants will be paid for by the Stutsman County Soil Conservation Board.
There could also be other costs to complete the project, depending upon if they do not have enough volunteer help for some of the work such as placing the sod, McDougall said.
But while McDougall is confident there are enough funds to complete the project, he said fundraising has continued.
“... you can’t just build it, you also have to be able to take care of it or else it will just go downhill again,” he said.
“We’re going to have a pretty extensive water bill, especially at the beginning when we put the sod in,” Schmitz said, “but perpetually the water is going to be an automatic sprinkler system and the park’s going to look great – but it’s going to cost money to keep it looking great.”
Funds will be needed for maintenance including mowing, weeding and snow removal.
‘Urban Prairie Garden’
The Hansen Arts Park featured common annual and perennial flowers, but when the project is completed, it will focus on native flowers. That was the brainchild of McDougall too.
“The theme for the Arts Park is ‘Prairie Grass Ballet’ and the sculpture down there was inspired by an artist who came to North Dakota, and he just laid down in the grass and the wind was blowing the grass around and there were all those granite boulders left there by glaciers,” McDougall said.
McDougall said he thought about the flowers already planted in the park and the maintenance that they required. From his involvement with James Valley Pheasants Forever, he learned about native plants and their ability to survive on the North Dakota prairie, putting down deep roots to survive during periods of drought. He also learned that native plants are being lost and their importance to bees, butterflies and food.
“Without bees, there’s not much that would grow because they need pollination,” McDougall said. “So I thought, the theme of the park is ‘Prairie Grass Ballet,’ why don’t we replace all these beautiful nonnative flowers with beautiful native flowers that could survive these types of things and also put signage in there.”
The goal with the completed Hansen Arts Park project is to have an urban prairie garden, McDougall said, that includes signage and QR codes that people can scan with their cellphones to learn more about the flowers and prairie urban gardens.
“Increase awareness of the things that Pheasants Forever, which is a habitat organization, really strive for people to know about,” McDougall said.
McDougall sought the help of Austin Lang, precision ag and conservation specialist with North Dakota Pheasants Forever, for assistance with the plants to place in the Arts Park.
Flowers selected for the six flower beds were based on color, hardiness, height and pollinator value for bees and butterflies. Eighteen different types of flowers will be planted, including coneflowers, the state flower (wild prairie rose), asters and milkweed.
“Those prairie plants, they’re very well adapted to this area,” Lang said.
McDougall, who spent a lot of time researching the plants, came up with a plan on how to place them in the flower beds as well.
“I kind of did it so that each flower bed had no more than four (types of) flowers in it so that we could put a sign and it’s very obvious that’s what this flower is,” he said.
He said people won’t see a mixture of flowers in the beds because the plantings are designed to be educational. He’s hoping the native plantings inspire people to put them in their own yards, increasing habitat for bees and butterflies and in rural areas, for wildlife.
Schmitz noted that John Zvirovski, Jamestown Sun garden editor and master gardener, will continue to plant large planters at the Arts Park this year.
“... so we will have some annual flowers again this year too,” Schmitz said. “It’s going to look good.”
McDougall said 14 pallets of sod - 8,000 square feet - will be placed in the Hansen Arts Park. The amount of sod required a semi-flatbed trailer to get it there. Curt Waldie agreed to donate the flatbed and pick up the sod.
“There’ve been a lot of people who stepped forward to offer their services, lots of times for free,” McDougall said.
Weather has been the main culprit to delays in getting the project started in the Arts Park, with wet conditions keeping them out of the Arts Park. McDougall expects that work will begin next week. The existing grass will be removed, the ground aerated and the sprinkler system installed. The existing plants will be removed and given to Arts Center members, then the native plants will be planted and the sod placed with yellow tape around it to protect it from being walked on while getting established, McDougall said.
“We want to give it a good start,” he said.
Volunteers are needed to help with some of the work for the project and volunteer help to maintain it is also welcome, McDougall said.
To volunteer to help with the work for the project, contact McDougall at 269-9157.
Donations for the project may be sent to The Arts Center.
McDougall said he served on the board of The Arts Center for eight years and thinks of Charlotte and Gordon Hansen, for whom the park is named, and their daughter, Jo-Ida, who has continued to support the community.
“I just think that Arts Park deserves to be something we can all be proud of,” McDougall said. “I’m excited for this happening and a little bit of me feels an obligation to Gordon and Charlotte and Jo-Ida Hansen that something that has their name on it should look good. … Jo-Ida has continued it long after her parents have passed.
“It’s a really nice part of our community,” McDougall said of the Arts Park. “I drive by there and I think, ‘wow, this is pretty cool that Jamestown has this.