Royal Park was here long before we were part of the neighborhood. The space that we grow on had a home on it prior to 1971. At that time it was sold to the City of Des Moines by the Royal Family. Our neighbor from down the block (Jon Royal) had some amazing parents responsible for its inception. They were incredibly involved in the neighborhood and Jon continues their legacy.
Over the years, slowly, Royal Park declined. The City didn’t have the funds to keep up the maintenance and upgrades to the park. At the end, there was an empty sand pit (that used to have swings/slide) and a few broken benches.
I’m getting ahead of myself. When I contacted the city Parks Department, there was a broken up paved area that had a broken basketball hoop and some swings. The park is less than 10 feet from my house and less than a foot from the house on the other side.
I started googling and found some email addresses. I first just emailed to see if anyone would be willing to help me. To put some better equipment in, to put a bigger sign about the park closing at night, etc. anything!
Ben Page, director of Des Moines Parks and Rec turned out to be my Leslie Knope. He listened to me, he worked with me for over 3 years, and he stood by us until the end! I can’t say enough good things about him. Our city is lucky to have him at the Parks Department.
We brought 6 options to the City Council, one of which was letting an adjacent property owner lease the space. And that’s the one that they approved. We had to go through two public votes and then work with the legal team for about a month to get a lease set up.
We feel extremely grateful that the Parks Department and the City are allowing us to be stewards of this land.
As of the 2020 season, we will be growing on just over an acre on plots all over Riverbend. We can’t wait to keep pushing and to keep growing Sweet Tooth Farm.