February 28, 2023

On January 23, the Great Outdoors Foundation announced that the City of Urbandale was selected as the second grantee of the MidAmerican Energy Company Regional Fund, a $5 million endowment invested in ICON Water Trails. The grant will be used to enhance Walker Johnston Park, including adding access to North Walnut Creek, an amenity outlined in the original ICON, then Central Iowa Water Trails, feasibility study.

Are you ready to explore the great outdoors and experience nature’s beauty up close? Look no further than the new Walker Johnston Park Water Trails access point in Urbandale, Iowa. Thanks to a $125,000 grant from the MidAmerican Energy Regional Fund, the City of Urbandale is enhancing the park with a creek access point, an outdoor classroom, interpretive signage, and reforestation. The goal is to create a space that preserves the natural habitat where people can interact with nature in an educational way.

The Concept

According to Jan Herke, the Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Urbandale, the project is all about “increasing access to outdoor recreation opportunities in the community by creating a space that preserves the natural habitat where people can interact with nature in an educational way.” With a water access point and outdoor classroom, park users can wade, skip stones, fish, catch frogs, and investigate the natural environment around them.

Not only is the project a fun way to connect with nature, but it also provides opportunities to learn about the natural environment and promote environmental stewardship. Herke explains, “By introducing the creek access and an outdoor classroom at Walker Johnston Regional Park, the City, area schools, and surrounding communities will see an already popular and well-used park become an even more engaging place for people and nature. This project will provide park users the opportunity to learn about the natural environment and grow outdoor recreation opportunities in the heart of an urban environment.”

Environmental Conservation

In addition to the water trails and outdoor classroom, the project also includes reforestation of the wooded greenbelt. This restoration is crucial, as the area is losing trees due to age, disease, and weather. With interpretive signage and an accessible trail, the outdoor classroom will be a site that provides opportunities for the public to better understand what’s involved in stabilizing eroding streams as well as help foster a deeper understanding of the importance of water quality, stream flow, aquatic-life, vegetation, and wildlife.

Urbandale is committed to environmental conservation and protecting the natural resources in the community. The City has already completed a $175,000 stream bank stabilization project along North Walnut Creek and plans to do additional bank stabilization and restoration in 2023, estimated at $350,000. These efforts will positively impact approximately 1,600 feet of stream front.


The location of the project site is adjacent to a popular playground, soccer and softball fields, a skate park, park shelter, and elementary school. People of all ages and abilities will be able to experience this ICON project and its offerings. With construction planned for 2023, residents and visitors of Urbandale will soon be able to enjoy the beauty and excitement of the water trails project.

In Urbandale, adventure awaits at the Walker Johnston Park Water Trails. With its accessible and family-friendly amenities, this project will introduce new generations to the water at Walnut Creek and encourage stewardship and a greater love for nature. Don’t miss out on this exciting opportunity to explore the great outdoors and learn about the natural environment.

About the Author: Jan Herke is the Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Urbandale. Urbandale, Iowa, is an award-winning community of more than 45,000 residents offering a unique combination of location, value, and community engagement to businesses and residents. Urbandale is located in the northwest part of the Des Moines Metro Area at the intersections of Interstate 35, Interstate 80, and Iowa Highway 141. This unique geographic location allows Urbandale businesses and residents convenient access to a coast-to-coast and border-to-border transportation network.

Urbandale is a welcoming and vibrant community with affordable and accessible amenities for residents and businesses. From safe neighborhoods to acres of green space, Urbandale is uniquely positioned as an attractive place to raise a family, grow your business, and enjoy life. The City of Urbandale maintains one of the lowest municipal tax rates in the state, providing excellent services at an exceptional value. Each year hundreds of new residents make Urbandale their home—joining those who already enjoy our community’s extensive park and trail network, short commutes, great career opportunities, and excellent schools.