Royal Park neighbors are trying to get the city to lease them the park they say is a magnet for bad behavior in the neighborhood and turn it into a community garden.


A pair of young Des Moines moms want to turn a tiny, neglected park in the River Bend neighborhood into a community garden.

The city’s website describes Royal Park as a “quaint little park … nestled right into the neighborhood.”

But, in reality, the tiny plot at 1809 Eighth St. is overgrown with weeds. It’s more apt to attract feral cats and teenage mischief makers than children looking for a place to play, according to Monika Owczarski.

She and Keri Thien are working to lease the land from the city. They envision a community garden where neighbors can grow food for themselves and sell excess produce at the weekly 6th Avenue Corridor Multicultural Market.

“We live in a food desert,” Thien said. “It’d be nice to provide access to fresh produce.”

The plan has the blessing of the city’s Park and Recreation Department and it has received an initial OK from the City Council. The city is expected to officially grant Owczarski and Thien a temporary lease for the property at Monday night’s council meeting.

‘Pocket park’ falls on hard times

Des Moines paid $3,200 for the parcel in 1970 and turned it into a “pocket park” for the surrounding neighborhood.

The city has several pocket parks. Many are no bigger than an average residential lot and most lack major amenities other than a couple pieces of playground equipment. Royal Park is less than a quarter acre.

It was named for Lewis and LaVere Royal, a pair of community activists who helped found the River Bend Neighborhood Association.

Royal Park once had a basketball court, but it’s now gone. The swing set and slide that still appear on the city’s website were removed when they became unsafe.

A sign, a couple benches and an overgrown…