In 1935, the city of Hastings was notified that they had been given approval from the state Works Progress Administration (WPA) office for three projects, two of which were to be of benefit to Heartwell Park. Final approval from Washington would be given in late September 1935. In the first, Heartwell Lake would be deepened to prevent the water from stagnating. The total cost was expected to be $11,268.60, all of which would be borne by the WPA. In November, the weather began to turn cold, and there was a concern that the ground in the lake would freeze, preventing WPA workers from being able to continue work on the excavation. To attempt to prevent this, the leaves from thousands of Hastings trees were gathered from citizens’ lawns and dumped into the lake to prevent the ground from freezing.
The second project involved the construction of a combination shelter house and tool shed. The shelter house was planned to be constructed of broken concrete slabs taken from Hastings streets during storm sewer construction. The only new materials would be concrete for the floors and footings, lumber and hardware. Approximately half of the building would be open to the public, while the other half would provide storage for tools and machinery. The open portion would have a fireplace. An identical building was constructed at Lincoln Park. A series of steps led from the building at Heartwell Park to the water, which would aid ice skaters’ accessing the lake during the winter.
Early in the summer, Mayor Harm indicated that Heartwell Lake would be stocked with bullheads and other kinds of edible fish. An application for free fish was received by the mayor from the Nebraska Game, Forestation and Parks Commission. Mayor Harm indicated he would apply for several thousand fish. Two thousand five hundred “eating size” bullheads were released into Heartwell Lake in July. They were transported to Hastings in a special truck and released to the amazement of many children and spectators. Unfortunately, the mayor had to inform the children that they would not be allowed to fish the lake right away. They were made to wait until ten days had passed, when three hundred children and one thousand persons lined the banks of the lake.
The first winter after the improvements were made to the park, ice skating was an extremely popular activity at Heartwell Park. Lights were strung by the City Water and Light Department to facilitate night skating, and the shelter house was boarded up to provide a place to thaw out. The city hired a custodian to be on duty from 6 to 11 pm each evening to maintain a fire in the fireplace and assist the skaters.
Hastings Daily Tribune, 30 September 1935. Hastings Daily Tribune, 2 November 1935. Hastings Daily Tribune, 24 August 1935. Hastings Daily Tribune, 7 May 1936. Hastings Daily Tribune, 19 May 1936. Hastings Daily Tribune, 17 June 1936. Hastings Daily Tribune, 7 July 1936. Hastings Daily Tribune, 17 July 1936. Hastings Daily Tribune, 11 December 1936.
Project originally submitted by Jill Dolberg on July 8, 2015.
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