Wednesday, May 6, 2009

New Ambassadors look to assist town

ALTON-Heith Riechle and Andy Van Ommeren want to better the community of Alton.

Which is why the two, along with more than 20 other Alton residents have banded together to form the Ambassadors of Alton.

"We're a private, nonprofit organization that works in conjunction with the city," Reichle said. "We want to help the city, so we'll ask them what they maybe want us to help out with."

Although the group has not held an official meeting yet, Reichle and Van Ommeren said the group has met with the Granville Improvement Club to get a better idea of what their purpose and goals should be.

And the group already has a project line up - one that has been two years in the making.

Van Ommeren and his brother Wes, who own Van Ommeren Carpentry in Alton, held a three-on-three basketball tournament two years ago. The event raised $2,000, which was donated to the city.

"The city wanted that first $2,000 that was raised to go toward matching grants for soe park equipment," Van Ommeren said.

While that was more than fine with Van Ommeren, he started talking to Reichle and some of his other friends, and the possibility of starting their own betterment club began sounding like a definite possibility.

"The more we thought about it, we thought we could build up some funds and better the community in ways we want to," Reichle said.

And first on the agenda is a nine-hole disc golf course at Roadside Park.

"The city and county both own the park, so it's going to be on both city and county property," Van Ommeren said.

Wrapping around the entire pond, the course will begin and end at the shelter house and feature nearly a mile-long stretch of secluded, spaced-out holes, making it the first in Sioux County.

But, before the Ambassadors of Alton was ever even formed, Reichle and Van Ommeren knew it was a project they wanted to bring to Alton.

"We had started playing disc golf a lot in LeMars and Cherokee, and we thought it would be nice to have one around here, so we started looking at places to put it, and in Alton, Roadside Park was an obvious choice," Reichle said. "So, then we went around to all of the businesses in town and ended up raising $6,000. With that, you can realize how much work it's going to be, but then the ambassadors came along and took the project over."

Take it over, they did.

Group members bonded together Saturday, April 25, to clean up Roadside Park. Reichle said that while the county side of the park is regularly maintained, the city side is not, so they were able to haul away nearly 60 dead trees as well as overgrown brush, making way for the disc golf course, which Reichle said is scheduled to open sometime in May.

"We also want to have an opening day where we can bring down a big grill and have brats and burgers for all of the donors," Reichle said. "There are 23 businesses that donated, so that's 23 families. Anybody inside or outside the community will also be invited to come out. While the course will open in May, the grand opening day may or may not be in May."

After the disc golf course is open, Reichle and Van Ommeren know they want to have an annual cleanup day of Roadside Park, but other than that, they have not completely decided on future projects and fundraisers for the Ambassadors of Alton.

"We do know we want to do a sandbox fill, where we would go around town with a bunch of sand and fill up kids' sandboxes, but we don't know if that would be every year or every other year," Reichle said.

But, Reichle and Van Ommeren know there will be plenty of community members willing to help.

"In a small town like Alton, everybody can kind of come together, and you can see how much people want to help," Reichle said. "People don't always have the time to put in and do stuff, but they're willing to help in other ways. That's the big thing. We realized how many people want to improve Alton, because there are plenty of things that could be picked up and improved upon around town."

This article appeared in the May 2, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.

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