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'It's almost like they're throwing away that memory': Glenwood park removes memorial benches, families hurt

Posted at 6:39 PM, Sep 02, 2022

GLENWOOD, Iowa (KMTV) — At Glenwood Lake Park residents can take a stroll, have a break and sit on a bench that pays respect to those who came before us.

"We're all God's kids, essentially they are, everybody's families," Glenwood resident Sally Vohs said.

But behind a red barn at the park lie dilapidated wooden benches families bought in memory of their loved ones. A few years ago, the park department started removing these benches without notifying those impacted.

"It's kind of disrespectful to the loved ones as well as the people that had purchased the bench, you know, they could have at least contacted them and let them know," resident Donni Cocklin said.

"It's like, that loved one didn't mean as much to the town," Vohs said.

How did this happen? City Administrator Amber Farnan says the city switched to using metal benches a few years ago since they'd last longer and be more durable.

The bench removal received attention recently; Farnan got an email this week from a family who came to Glenwood to see their bench and it was gone.

Farnan met with impacted family members, she said, trying to understand the situation and discovered the wooden ones were removed and placed in a pile. That's when people started posting their frustrations on Facebook.

Farnan isn't sure why families weren't notified of the bench removals. Right now, there's not a park bench removal policy and her goal is to make sure this doesn't happen again.

"I'd like to put a policy in place that says every effort will be made to contact a family member and/or loved one of the benches, which would include putting that individual's name in the paper to let them know this bench is scheduled for removal," Farnan said.

For now, the city has stopped the removal of benches. Families are free to take the wooden benches home, but if they want to replace the benches, they would have to purchase new ones. Still, the community feels added loss.

"It's almost like they're throwing away that memory, that person's life," Cocklin said.

The city administrator will meet with the park board on September 15 to talk about the bench removal policy. The Park Superintendent and staff have a list of benches scheduled to be taken out. Those details are shared on their website, Facebook and the Glenwood newspaper. For a link to the city website, click here.

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