Community leaders met Wednesday to discuss options on how to best deal with the growing concern about the safety - or lack thereof - of the Iowa River.
"It was just a very preliminary discussion," Marshalltown Police Chief Mike Tupper said. "A brainstorming meeting more than anything."
Representatives from Marshall County Emergency Management, Mid-Iowa Community Action, Salvation Army, Marshalltown schools, the MPD, the Marshalltown Fire Department, the Marshall County Sheriff's Office, the Community Y and clergy turned out to address the issue.
T-R PHOTO BY LUKE STALZER
Police kept park goers at a distant at Riverview Park, shown here July 4, while they searched for the bodies of three children in the Iowa River. Community leaders met Wednesday to discuss options as to how to best address the drownings. The July 4 drownings were the second such incident in three weeks in river.
Conditions in the Iowa River have led to the deaths of four school-aged children in the past month: Andres Favela, 10, Leh Meh, 9, Sae Reh, 7, and Thay Mo, 7. All the children were swimming in the river when they drowned.
Rogers Elementary, Area Education Agency 267 and Anson Elementary staff will hold a community gathering from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Fisher Community Center, 709 S. Center St., for the three children whose bodies police recovered from the river July 4.
Tupper said the group talked Tuesday about possible solutions to the problem, but that no action has been taken. That discussion detailed how to educate the community and help provide other avenues for families to cool off during the summer months.
"We are looking to conduct some community outreach so we can let people know how dangerous the river can be," he said.
Efforts by some civic organizations such as the Marshalltown YMCA/YWCA and the Rogers Neighborhood Association have already begun.
The association is looking to set up cooling stations while the Y is working with area schools to expand its free swimming lessons and pool access to better serve families unable to afford lessons. Both ideas were already in the works, but the organizations want to shine a spotlight on them because of the drownings.
"The need is greater now," Carol Hibbs, CEO of the Marshalltown YMCA/YWCA, said. "We are working on trying to meet that need."
Tupper said the group will meet again sometime after RAGBRAI. In the meantime, Tupper encourages anyone with suggestions to contact him directly or simply attend a city council meeting and give suggestions during the public comments segment of the meeting.
"There are a lot of people in our community who want to help and are concerned," Tupper said. "We hope that continues."