The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Park Crawl: exploring the outdoor options of the community

Find serenity at Merrill Park

Just blocks away from campus, Merrill Park provides a serene environment for a quick study break on a sunny day or a chance to relive childhood memories on the play structures. Though oddly shaped—a road curves through the middle of the park, dividing the park in two—there is plenty of space for all visitors to enjoy the park. The east side of the park features a playground, a swing set, and a gazebo—all generously sized. There are also plenty of picnic tables spread throughout the grassy knolls—good for both large parties and intimate nature dates. The west side of the park offers similar amenities, as well as a baseball diamond. The park is home to a number of sturdy looking trees, suitable for some climbing fun. Though the park’s squirrel population seemed rather sparse, the park has flocks of birds chirping and squawking on the premises.

Spot the elusive “squeaver” at James Miller Park

The haggard Grinnellians stepped off the railroad tracks and beheld the blue of a large fishing pond—the centerpiece of James Miller Park. They happily made a beeline for the waterfront, only to be faced with a carefully unconcealed sign that read Private Property, monitored by video surveillance. Apparently, someone who is slightly paranoid owns one half of the lake.

The park itself was pleasant and sunny after trudging through some perplexingly swampy lawn. At the north end, there is a set of two swings and a springy squeaver—a kind of beaver/squirrel hybrid that attracts small children and College students. Scattered throughout were apparatuses for Frisbee golf. To the south, past a stately lane shaded by trees, were a couple of pavilions, a play castle, a merry-go-round, and more swing sets. Smiling, the students thought that a carefree afternoon lay ahead.
Then, disaster—James Miller Park is home to a population of passive-aggressive geese.

Visit Arbor Lake Park for scenic history

Sure, Arbor Lake may not be as swimmable as its Great cousins (read: Michigan, Superior, et al) but it’s still a nice secluded park, not far from a relatively trafficked and urban part of Grinnell.

A more-or-less green colored lake surrounded by trees, Arbor Lake’s strongest suit is its wide trail around the lake that seems to be made for that crappy hybrid 24-gear your parents bought you at Walmart as a graduation present. If you don’t wish to bike, or can’t, take a nice walk towards it down the west side of Grinnell and hike around the lake, sit on one of the nice benches and give the obstacle course a try if you are feeling adventurous.

Arbor Lake neighbors the calm-by-day, spooky-by-night Hazelwood Cemetery. Obviously, if you decide to visit the hilly and silent cemetery, be respectful, and don’t “idle or loaf around,” both of which are prohibited by the City of Grinnell, according to a brochure published about the grounds by the city. This more-than-hundred-year-old cemetery is a beautiful and historic gem to stroll through while contemplating life, eternity, love and the grave of Josiah B. Grinnell.

Rock Creek Park offers recreation

A sprawling 602 acres of land and water, Rock Creek State Park has something for everyone. Located about seven miles west of Grinnell College, a brisk 10-minute car ride will get you there. The park is also accessible by bike—there is a nicely paved bike trail from campus—or by foot if you’re an avid walker, or a member of the cross-country team. Though there weren’t many visitors, the park’s man-made lake, dedicated in 1952, is popular amongst boaters, fishers, and swimmers throughout the year. While the lake’s murky brown hue and year-round frigid temperatures may turn away the meek, the lake offers a great number of recreational activities. Fishing aficionados can angle for crappie, bass, catfish and more, while boaters can find a number of docks with easy access to the water. Rock Creek is also a camping hotspot, offering 200 campsites along the waterfront with bathrooms and showers. Whether you’re coming to enjoy the picturesque view for the afternoon or parking your RV for an extended vacation, Rock Creek is definitely worth a visit.

Central Park is family-oriented

Located right in the middle of downtown Grinnell at the corner of 4th Avenue and Broad Street, Central Park has a wonderful family atmosphere. The park isn’t big, but it’s big enough to take a little detour while on a stroll through the town. The park seems to attract mainly families and children, as evidenced by a kid’s bike that was left in the gazebo, which stands in the center of the park. Given the number of swings at the park’s playground, the family feel comes as no surprise. In part due to its location in the middle of downtown Grinnell, the persistent traffic noise makes it a little hard to just relax in the shade while catching up on some reading. Overall, it is a nice park, in good shape, but other than families and the occasional dog-walker, not many people seem to frequent the park.

Enjoy playtime at Ahrens Park

If you like your parks to come with a bit more than a grass field, head to Paul W. Ahrens Park (1510 Penrose St.), which offers tennis and basketball courts, baseball and soccer fields, a circular path, Hamburger Hill and a sea of cornfields.

The park is the perfect place to go for a quick escape from campus life, as one can walk east, swing by Dari Barn (1810 6th Ave.) for some treats on the way to Ahrens, climb atop the hill and gaze upon a beautiful Iowan landscape—it is arguably the best spot in Grinnell to watch the sunrise. Four stars for convenient location, amenities and size.

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