116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MARION — The potential future of the caboose that’s been a hallmark of Marion’s City Square Park for 30 years can now be seen in concept designs that were presented to the city council this week.
The Marion City Council will vote to receive and file the concept plan on Thursday, but council members seemed to support it during their work session Tuesday.
“This looks fantastic,” Council Member Sara Mentzer said. “It’s a great step.”
City staff worked with RDG Planning and Design to develop concept plans for moving the caboose from its current location in the center of Uptown Marion, to a new pocket park farther east along Grant Wood Trail.
The location would be across from the American Legion Hall, adjacent to 31st Street, along the trail. The city already owns the land.
The caboose, a symbol of Marion’s railway history, has been a main piece of City Square Park since it was donated by the former Marion Depot Pride Committee in 1992.
The concept design features the caboose on railroad tracks between two patio areas with benches and landscaping. The location would also include educational signage about Marion’s railroad history.
“The concept plays on the train switchyard,” Parks and Recreation Director Seth Staashelm said. “The original switchyard is just west, just past the Starbucks and roundabout there.”
Staashelm said the goals of the project include preserving Marion’s railway history while educating residents, creating a destination along the trail and beautifying the existing city property.
If built, the caboose pocket park would join Waldo’s Rock Park, Thomas Park and City Square Park as destinations along the trail.
The plans have already gone before the city’s historic preservation commission and park board. The historic preservation commission chose the current concept, which includes the caboose as the literal centerpiece of the new pocket park sitting on a piece of railroad.
Plans for upgrades to City Square Park have been in the works for the last couple of years and those plans do not include keeping the bright orange caboose in its current location in the southeast corner of the park.
Last fall, the city received a Destination Iowa grant from the state — created from federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars — to go toward the Central Plaza project. The grant is worth $3 million.
The Central Plaza upgrade has been on the city’s wish list since Marion’s visioning process in 2018. Upgrading the plaza, with an ice rink included, would cost around $6.6 million.
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