The Osage Park Department was started around 1945. The original board members, or commissioners, were elected that year and declared the Osage Park Commission. This is the first record of any public vote found in the archives. Meetings at that time were sporadic and minutes were not well kept. The first record of monthly meetings with minutes was found in January, 1956. From that point to the present, records of events and procedures have been well kept.

In 1947, the public petitioned the City Council to build a swimming pool. A public vote soon followed and a pool committee was appointed to proceed. The pool was opened in June of 1951. The cost of the project was $100,000. The cost of daily admission was 10-cents, 14-cents, and 40-cents.

Over the last 50+ years, the Park Department has seen many changes. At the present time, the department has 6 parks, 3 trails, 2 ball field complexes, a soccer complex, swimming pool and 100 acres of wildlife area.

In 1938, Spring Park was given to the City of Osage to be used as a City-owned and maintained park. Over the last 60 years, the park has seen several changes including doubling in size and loss of over 500 elm trees from Dutch Elm Disease. The park’s spring has maintained a constant flow to this day. The water is tested frequently and tastes great at a temperature of 52 degrees. The park is used as a picnic, playground, and camping area with numerous patrons annually.

Also about that time, City Park was established on Chestnut Street. The land was purchased to be used as a park. In 1941 a portion was used to build the Municipal Utilities building. The east 1/3 of the property was leased to the Osage School District for the athletic field that is still the football field and track. Play equipment was purchased by fundraisers as early as the late 1930’s by various groups. In 1950-51 the swimming pool was constructed at the present site in City Park. In 1962, tennis courts were built at the current location by the City Park Commission, with donations from several organizations. In 1999, a new restroom building was constructed incorporating a shop/storage area and a small stage on the south. The stage has been used on many occasions.

In 1975, land was donated by Ed Davidson for a park area. This land, 8 acres, is located south of the high school just east of 7th Street. In 1976, a portion was leased to the Osage High School to construct four tennis courts to be maintained by the school but usable by the Public. In 1977 the Park Board allowed the Osage Jaycee’s to build a softball field on a portion of Davidson Park, which is now owned and maintained by the Park Department.

Burnham Park was constructed in 1977. Ralph “Peck” and Ruth Burnham donated money to be used for the children of Osage. The tennis court and play equipment were installed in 1977 on land the City already owned. The park is located on a corner of 10th and Ash where previously was located a City water well and wellhouse.

When the “new” south water tower was built in 1967, the City allowed the land around the tower to be used as a City park. The park has some play equipment and an open area for kids to run and play. In 1985 a heated shop was built to be used for a winter work area.

In 1988, an idea was conceived to construct a trail for hiking, biking and cross-country ski use between the Osage City limits and Spring Park. A grant was applied for from a new fund set up by the Iowa Department of Transportation called the Recreation Trails Fund. Early in 1989, the City of Osage as awarded the first ever DOT Recreation Trails Grant. Construction was started later that spring. Harry Cook was a long-time member of the Park Board and had recently passed away. It seemed only fitting to name the new trail after him. The two-mile stretch was completed and ribbon cutting was held in July of 1990 Ironically, the river was flooding that day and no one could even walk the trail. A short trail also goes west out of Spring Park and loops around back to Spring Park road. This, with a biking, hiking trail through Spring Park connecting the two, makes a total of 4 miles of trail.

In 1981, the Park Board officially took over the boys’ little league and the newly-formed girls’ softball league. This was for kids in grades 1 to 6. The program was growing fast and there were nearly 300 participants, which caused a shortage of ball diamonds. After struggling for several years, land was purchased for a ball field complex. This was located between Sawyer Drive and the fairgrounds. The four acres was developed over the next ten years into Bob Muller Ball Field. Bob was an energetic volunteer coach who was always available to help with the kids in any sport. He passed away unexpectedly at a young age, and the ball field was named in his honor. The complex has 3 fields, restroom/concession stand, lights, bleachers and a batting cage.

Funding for the Bob Muller Field has come from many sources including grants, gifts and fundraisers. The Osage Kiwanis use the field yearly for a weekend tournament and much of their proceeds come back to help build and maintain the fields.

The family of Bob and Gerry Olson gave a parcel of land at the corner of 1st and Chestnut Street for use as a City park. The property had been in the Olson family for many years. It was named Harmony Park because both Bob and Gerry, as well as several of their children, were musical and sang in many different groups. The park was developed in 1995 to be used as a playground and picnic park. A portion has also been utilized as a tree nursery for the City to raise a few trees to transplant as needed.

The newest project has been the introduction of soccer to the kids in Osage. The first games were played in the fall of 2001. With a very successful first season, it was evident more room was needed for the 300 kids to play on. The Osage Rotary Club purchased five acres of land just south of the Osage City limits on T-38 (S. 7th Street). The area is being developed into a soccer complex with four fields, restroom/concession stand building and parking area.

The Osage Park Department hired the first full time employee in 1964. This was Tom Lincoln. Prior to his hire, mowing and maintenance was done mainly by City street employees and “Shorty” Bascomb, who was hired as seasonal help. Lincoln held this position until 1980 when he retired. Ted Funk was hired as Park and Recreation Director that year and still holds that position. A second fulltime employee was needed and in 1990 an assistant was hired. Currently, that position is held by Del Gast.

This is a very brief account of 60+ years of the Osage Park and Recreation Department. Many people have been affected by this department as employees and many, many more as patrons and participants. The department has grown dramatically since its conception in 1945 and will continue to do so for years to come.