SOLON– Lake Macbride has it all: fishing, camping, hiking and “all the outdoor activities Iowans can enjoy.” So said Kevin Morris, Vice President of Public Affairs and Communication for the Coca-Cola Company.
The internationally known beverage maker, as part of its “America is Your Park” campaign, donated $10,000 to the state park Wednesday, Aug. 3. Morris said the company decided to showcase Lake Macbride, which is the only park in 11 states selected for the grant. The park remains in contention for $100,000 and being named “America’s Favorite Park” as online voting continues until September 6. Second and third place parks in voting will receive $50,000 and $25,000 respectively.
During a brief ceremony, VIPs from Coca-Cola, as well as Solon Mayor Rick Jedlicka, State Representative Jeff Kauffman, State Senator Bob Dvorsky, Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds and Governor Terry Branstad were on-hand to share their thoughts on the park, the grant and the contest.
“Vote often, be biased, and vote over and over and over again for this park,” said Kauffman, who’s newly realigned house district includes the 74-year-old park. “It’s a great park,” said Dvorsky, who recalled his dad helping to build the park as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.
Governor Branstad described Macbride as “one of our most beautiful and most visited parks.” Branstad used the event to introduce his goal to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation through a combined private/public endeavor over five years. The program will focus not only on reversing Iowans’ sedentary lifestyles, but also offer advice on healthy eating and better choices for better health. He added more details would be released in the near future. State parks, he said, provide “a great place to enjoy healthy activities.” Branstad also discussed the Iowa State Parks Foundation which will seek private funds to augment the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Echoing Kauffman, Branstad urged the audience to “vote often for Lake Macbride,” and to “get here often.”
The Solon Cross Country Team delivered the oversized check from the Coca Cola Company by running in from the nearby woods to the stirring sounds of the theme from “Chariots of Fire.” Coach Emy Williams said the team was invited to participate due to the amount of time they spend working out and running the trails.
“We use the park a lot. There are some great hills here so it’s always a great workout for us,” Williams noted.
The donation will be used to purchase handicapped accessible, low-maintenance rubber mats made from recycled tires. The mats will replace sand surrounding playground equipment in the park. The money will also go toward a series of interpretive panels to be placed throughout the park providing information on the value of getting children outside to play and explore nature, according to Roger L. Lande, Director of the Iowa DNR.
Lande noted the park was named after “the father of conservation,” Thomas Macbride, and sees a half-million visitors each year.
“Many of our lifestyles today put us indoors. This (park) is a wonderful way to get people to find out what’s out there, where they can be healthier” Lande said. He urged people to “vote often, so we can make Macbride an even better park than it is today.”
Joining in the celebration were roughly 200 kids from the Cedar Rapids Boys and Girls Club. Before the check presentation, the children viewed a mobile aquarium full of native Iowa fish, met a variety of turtles, saw a pair of birds in the care of the Macbride Raptor Center and enjoyed healthy snacks. Afterward, a variety of games kept the kids busy and active.
Noting the young crowd, Kauffman addressed them directly when he said “it is important for you to take an interest at this point. We want to leave you what we’ve come to enjoy.”
To cast your vote, go to www.LivePositively.com  and enter Lake Macbride.