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Downtown Maryville digs in at Pocket Park

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Mayor Rachael Martin speaks to a large crowd gathered to kick off the construction of the Downtown Maryville Pocket Park on Thursday. The project, which has already started, plans to offer a covered structure with electricity, a historic fountain and a large mural.

MARYVILLE, Mo — Community members gathered Thursday to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new Downtown Maryville Pocket Park on the corner of Main and Third streets.

Starting in late 2017, the park project got its start when the Downtown Maryville organization purchased the city lot and immediately began making upgrades.

Clearing out some rubble from the former building at that location, the organization worked to level and improve the land while it worked on a plan for it.

“This day has been a long time coming for this Pocket Park,” said Matt Gaarder, Downtown Maryville member.

He explained that the genesis for the project came from other cities throughout the country that created small parks and green spaces to enliven downtowns where buildings once stood.

“They’re basically a place to relax, a place where you can get some shade,” said Gaarder. “... (It’s) basically just a way to get some more ambiance downtown.”

The group plans to place historic features to the park, embracing the history of Maryville and Nodaway County, he told the large crowd.

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Stephanie Campbell, president of Downtown Maryville, talks about the plan for the Pocket Park to be located on the corner of Main and Third streets.

“Once this is complete, it’s going to be one more thing that Maryville and Nodaway County can be proud of,” he said.

Denise Jasinski, Downtown Maryville executive director since 2017, said when she joined the organization the group had raised the funds to buy the land but not build the park. It took two more years to get to Thursday’s groundbreaking.

“I think more than anything, it’s taking something that was a dilapidated area and adding more ambiance to our downtown,” she said. “We also plan, down the road, to have different events that are going on here.”

She said it was important to the organization to find a historical element for the park, and it now has two: a large fountain and the pavilion.

Jasinski gave a brief history of the historic fountain that will be a focal point in the Pocket Park.

Thanks in part to funding put in place by Hermon Lee Ensign, who founded the National Humane Alliance in 1897, the organization distributed about 100 granite drinking fountains throughout the country to help provide water for horses, dogs and cats between 1904 and 1912. The city of Maryville received its fountain in 1911 and it was originally located in the center of the intersection at Fourth and Market streets.

Jasinski explained it became a hazard after automobiles became the more prevalent form of transportation, so it was removed and installed where the entrance sign to Northwest Missouri State University sits today.

It was moved to the east side of the Administration Building, where it remained until its weight, about 4,500 pounds, began causing problems for the underground steam tunnels. After it was removed, it was put in storage, until recently when Downtown Maryville requested its return for its Pocket Park.

Stephanie Campbell, president of Downtown Maryville, told the crowd that she’s seen many partnerships grow during this project and it’s a special thing.

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Downtown Maryville member Matt Gaarder talks Thursday about the Pocket Park and how the organization hopes the park will help bring added vitality to downtown.

“The partnerships that have happened here are incredible,” said Campbell. “This is an amazing community of people who come together around a common cause better than anything I’ve ever seen in my life,” she said. “It’s a privilege to be a part of it.”

Jeff Stubblefield, director of Maryville Parks and Recreation, said the plan for ongoing maintenance is still in the works, but that his department is planned to handle the upkeep.

The historic fountain, including the base that is in the beginning stages of the build, will be a part of that. He and Brock Pfost, of White Cloud Engineering, spoke during the event about the fountain construction and upkeep. Pfost said Nodway County drove the pilings in for the fountain base, down to the basement level, so the added strength is sure to help support it. Stubblefield sounded excited about the ease of winterizing the fountain, which should just take some minor air pressure to blow out the pipes.

“Once the downtown organization turns it over to the city, then it becomes one of ours.” He continued that maintenance is likely to be light, considering there is little grass involved in the plan.

“There’s going to be very little maintenance on our end,” Stubblefield said. “Being involved in this partnership was a no-brainer. It’s just good for the city. This will be another nice attraction for downtown.”

Describing the park as offering a space for meeting people, small bands playing and people watching, he said, “There are endless possibilities. I think it will be really cool.”

Another point of focus at the park will be the pavilion to be built from new framing materials, but with the original facade from what the city of Maryville believes to be the old Happy Hollow school from Pickering, Missouri.

City Manager Greg McDanel explained that the pavilion will have electricity and will offer a point of interest for downtown.

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Lily White, executive director of the Greater Maryville Chamber of Commerce, opens the dirt-turning ceremony on Thursday at the Downtown Maryville Pocket Park located on the corner of Main and Third streets.

“It’s a tremendous asset for downtown,” he said. “Pocket Parks continue to create a sense of pride, a sense of place, like Fourth Street did and South Main will do, this is just going to be another addition to that.”

He said in creating a place, adding unique and historic elements is key to drawing interest.

“We’re excited that this park has been designed to provide at least three unique points of interest, between the fountain, the mural and the schoolhouse shelter,” McDanel said.

Mayor Rachael Martin said the City Council and staff have been proud to partner on the project. She listed many of the entities involved in the project: Downtown Maryville, Northwest Missouri State University, local businesses, Nodaway County, the Maryville Tourism Committee, nonprofit organizations, local leaders, the Nodaway County Historical Society, Maryville Parks and Recreation, Nodaway County Economic Development, individuals and the city of Maryville.

“Everyone gets to share today,” she said. “Pieces from our history have been incorporated with the design to unify our past with our future. Everyone here today has yet another opportunity to be a part of the common thread that binds our community together.”

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