The Friends of the Parks is dedicating their funds to the following projects.  If you have questions about a certain project, please do not hesitate to reach out to our Executive Director, Sarah at

To see a full list of all the exciting things going on in the Des Moines Parks, click HERE.




Since 2007 the Friends have proudly provided swim lesson scholarships to underserved families and English-Language Learners in the community. The program continues to grow and is experiencing greater participation and need every year. Two programs, YRSP and GRASP, offer qualifying families access to swim lessons and youth sports for just $5 per season. For $25 you can provide a scholarship for a child to learn how to swim or be part of a recreational sports team.

Special thanks to our longtime partner, Variety - The Children’s Charity for their ongoing support of the learn-to-swim initiative.  Their generous gift provided updated equipment and swim lesson instructions to over 800 children in Des Moines during the 2021 aquatic season.

A new partnership this season provided scholarships to 60 Des Moines Refugee children and 48 from the Zion Church. 


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MacRae Park was purchased by the city in 1897. Current renovations to the park began in 2017 and the final phase of improvements will take just over a year to construct and are anticipated to be completed in 2022.  We are grateful for the generous support of our many park stewards.


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his project was made possible through grant funding received by the Wright Foundation and is slated for spring 2022 completion.


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Funding allocated for basketball court and new playground slated for 2022 completion.


Union Park Rocket Slide

Originally part of Miracle’s Astro City line, Union Park’s Rocket Slide has been an icon of fun for decades! It is this generations turn to keep the Rocket Slide soaring for future generations to enjoy.  The updates include: minor repairs throughout the slide, restoration to the historically accurate paint scheme, replacement of missing pieces and the addition of a slide safety hood. 


Evelyn K. Davis Park serves over 6,000 neighbors and many more visitors with activities like Summer City Hoops League (a partnership with DM Police Dept), Futsal Tournaments, Youth Programs, and pick up games.  The park has become a central community gathering place because of it's great amenities.  Visitors can enjoy charcoal grills, open shelters and picnic areas, baseball field, inclusive playground  equipment, plenty of open space and a spray ground.  

The basketball courts see heavy use throughout the year for special events and programs and have not been resurfaced since 2013.  The Friends are excited to support this much needed improvement, a true slam dunk for the neighborhood!

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Witmer Park phase II - slated for completion spring 2022, Witmer Park will boast a new playground, shelter and restroom facility (Drake and Beaverdale neighborhoods have been the driving force for this one. DNA logo attached. Waiting on BNA) And quote from DNA president Jennifer Sayers: “The Witmer Park Project, which includes the new playground and restroom, is a great addition to the recently renovated park. It will provide much-needed amenities for those enjoying the new floating fishing pier, shelters and looping path system. These facilities will allow park visitors to explore, play and relax, for as long as they’d like.



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The Friends of Des Moines Parks, the Parks and Recreation Department, and Project 7, a local graphic design firm, have partnered up to create graphic identities for the City’s most iconic trail segments. These identities will help trail users better understand where they are on the city’s trail system by graphically representing trail segments throughout the system. Each identity will be placed on Emergency 911 signage which allows first responders to quickly navigate and find people who are in a distressed situations on the trail system. The signs will be placed every quarter mile to help inform trail users of where they are and create a sense of identity to the City of Des Moines Trail system. A preview of this signage is available on the Carl Voss Trail. Remaining trail signage will be installed later this fall and spring of 2022.


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Wreaths Across America – Matching your support!


Friends of Des Moines Parks is supporting Wreaths Across America and we want to invite you to join us.  Many of the veterans buried in Woodland have not been remembered in over 100 years.  Sponsor wreaths will be placed at Woodland Cemetery on December 18, 2021.  For every two wreaths you sponsor, a third wreath is placed by matching support.  Consider $30 to place three wreaths before the matching deadline of November 30.  Our goal is to place 1,000 wreaths for veterans buried at Woodland Cemetery. 


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Upcoming project that will bring a brand new amenity to the DM Park system. This urban park will feature a shade structure, unique playground equipment, planters and a dedicated pedestrian and bike lane.

This program has been a great addition for the students whose first language is not English. It has helped students understand more about water safety and the risk of not knowing how to swim when they get into the water. Students feel more confident to be in the water since many of them have had no experience of doing so before. I personally want to thank Des Moines Parks and Recreation for working with us to provide such activity in the community.”

Vinh Nguyen, ELL Assessment & Accountability Specialist for Des Moines Public Schools in regards to the English Language Learner swim lesson program

Our sons have participated in Des Moines Park and Recreation swim lesson program for several years. We have really been pleased with the quality experience they’ve received through each session. This summer was particularly successful with an instructor, Cade, who was engaging, supportive, positive, encouraging – all qualities that create a successful learning environment! Cade, with the support of his supervisors, Hannah and Laura, showed a genuine interest in my son and expanding his skills by offering to provide instruction beyond the traditional swim levels. We really enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity provided to him! Thank you DMPR Aquatics Team!

Jessica Butler, Parent of Swim Lesson Participants