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May 2024

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UPNA History

Union Park entranceThe City of Des Moines has 58 organized neighborhood associations, with Union Park Neighborhood Association being one of them. To be one of these neighborhoods, a group of neighbors have to get together and navigate the City bureaucracy. Essentially, if a neighborhood does everything it is told, they eventually get to be called a "Charter Neighborhood". Union Park Neighborhood is a Charter Neighborhood and it's something we are proud of and do not take lightly. Many neighborhoods have not achieved that distinction.

For UPNA, it started in 1988 with a group of people who started from scratch. Margaret Swanson, Fred Gay, Bill Ritchie, Bill Horstman and Harold McMurray are just a few of our founding fathers. They met frequently to hash out boundaries, elect officers, write by-laws and finally they made an application to the City. In 1991, UPNA became a "Designated Neighborhood" and community input went into an "Action Plan" that was developed. In 1993, the plan was approved and we became a "Recognized Neighborhood". In 1997, we became a "Chartered Neighborhood" because we had made acceptable progress in carrying out our plan. We continue to work on improving the neighborhood, as evidenced by the improvement to the old walking entrance to Union Park. Our next opportunity is the Birdland neighborhood when it is fully protected from flooding, and we are working with City staff on the possibilities.

Other neighborhoods have gone through the same process to become Chartered Neighborhoods. To the north of UPNA at Hull Avenue is the Highland Park Neighborhood. To the south at East Washington is the Capitol Park Neighborhood.

We would like to develop a comprehensive, online history museum of the Union Park neighborhood. In order to do that we ask that everyone with materials (pictures, documents, oral histories, etc.) to either contact one of UPNA's officers or the website's webmaster.

We welcome articles and photographs for our association newsletter and website. We would especially like to receive materials related to:

  • History of Union Park since 1880
  • Transportation history (railroads, bussing streets and paths)
  • Business development
  • Family life during the last millennium, Great Depression, & WWII
  • Famous persons from the neighborhood
  • Landmarks, schools, and places
  • Racial and ethnic Issues
  • Life along the Des Moines River
  • And more...