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Dec 28, 2016 04:17PM

Learn and play outside: Updates coming to Fejervary park

By Chris Cashion
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Plans are underway for outdoor additions at Fejervary Park in Davenport, all designed to engage children and encourage them to interact with nature.
We once lived in a world where children played outdoors until the streetlights came on. Times have changed, and children do not always have access to safe areas outdoors, which has caused a number of children to lose their connection with nature.

The folks at Fejervary Park in Davenport are working to reestablish that connection and get children involved in more outdoor physical activities.

The plan is to expand on the park's existing Mother Goose nursery rhyme theme and add nature-based play facets designed to engage children and encourage them to interact with nature in a fun, yet educational way.

Those who have lived in the Quad-Cities for a number of years may remember the large, white Mother Goose statue that served as the entrance to a zoo that once was housed in the park. Zoo visitors walked right through the center of Mother Goose as they entered the zoo.

While the zoo is no longer in operation, Mother Goose still stands sentry at the park, and has become a natural springboard for a string of projects the city plans to implement to revitalize the park.

Fejervary Park has been a much loved landmark in Davenport for many years, according to Ryan Merritt, community relations supervisor for Davenport Parks and Recreation. It also is registered on the National Landmark Registry.

Even without the zoo that Fejervary once was known for, the park remains a wonderful oasis of nature in the heart of the city, according to Merritt, and the plans for further updates will make it even more of an outdoor play and education destination.

"So many people in the Quad-Cities have memories of this park. People love coming here, and we're going to make it even better," Merritt says.

Funding for much of the project is slated to come from a Building Better Communities grant from the American Water Charitable Foundation and the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). The City of Davenport Parks and Recreation Department received the grant in 2016.

Merritt says the current plans include creating an Itsy Bitsy Spider storybook area to visually explain water conservation concepts. Using a full-sized water table interactive play area, children will be able to pour "water down the waterspout" — just like in the "Itsy Bitsy Spider" nursery rhyme.

Plans also feature interactive signage, which will allow children to hear the sounds of water, and environmental play elements that will be modeled after water nature areas, including such things as logs, boulders and dragonflies.

Kids also will be able to crawl on an Itsy Bitsy crawler, a sort of spider web-inspired jungle gym, to help them learn more about water habitats and ecosystems.

The target date for unveiling of the Itsy Bitsy Spider installation is April 22, which will coincide with Earth Day.

Plans also are underway to add an outdoor musical instrument area to be known as Harmony Park. It would be comprised of large permanent outdoor instruments made to withstand the elements and continued hard play.

The instruments will not require electricity, and are designed to always be in tune to be enjoyed by all generations. Similar parks in other cities have included drums, chimes, bells and rhythm instruments.

The Harmony Park project hasn't been bid yet, but Merritt says it will be a valuable addition. Funding for the park will be provided through Davenport's Capital Improvement Program.

Merritt says the instruments will encourage kids of all ages to engage in musical play and give them one more way to enjoy the park.

Expanding upon the nursery rhyme theme, a carved "Hickory Dickory Dock" grandfather clock is being created by Thom Gleich of Majestic Hope Enterprises. The finished clock will stand approximately 8-feet-tall, with the hands designating a time of 12:59 and a mouse perched on the top.

Merritt says the new features at Fejervary will give families even more ways to get out and enjoy nature without having to leave the city. He says the new additions will be fun for all ages, and lend a great way for parents and children to make new memories at an old Quad-Cities favorite spot.
Chris Cashion is a writer on staff with Radish.

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