5-2-1-0 WINS!

By Lauren Kollauf on Thursday, June 3, 2021

Outdoor enthusiasts in Spencer get boost with 5-2-1-0 grant

Spencer, located in Clay County, is seen as a hub in northwest Iowa for outdoor recreation. The community of 11,000 people has diverse mix of native prairies, timber areas, campgrounds two river corridors, plus a mix of bike and hiking trails. Even during the winter, locals say, you can find people out snoeshowing and cross country skiing. 

"Even though Spencer is moderate in size, there is a lot of physical activity and outdoor enthusiasts in the community," said Clay County Conservation Director Will Horsley. "5-2-1-0 is only going to expedite those efforts here in Spencer."

RELATED: Meet the 5-2-1-0 funded communities

Spencer is one of 16 communities across the state receiving 5-2-1-0 funding from the Iowa Department of Public Health in FY21. With the grant funds, several community partners were able to receive a boost for projects that help further promote active lifestyles within Spencer.

Here are some of the projects that were funded in Spencer with 5-2-1-0 funds:

Playscape at Oneota Park

Clay County Conservation had been working for years to build a natural playscape at their headquarters in Oneota Park, located on the east edge of Spencer and directly off a city bike trail. The one-acre woodland area started to take shape in Fall 2019 with large rocks, tunnels, tubes, logs and natural swings.

clay co

"We strongly believe in getting kids outdoors. They can go outside and enjoy natural resources and not rely on screens to be entertained," said Horsley. "The kids love to run around, get dirty and use their imagination."

With the addition of 5-2-1-0 funds to the project, Clay County Conservation was able to purchase a water pump system that will be incorporated into the existing playscape. The water feature should be installed by mid-July for the public to use.

Wayfinding system for trails

Spencer has 18 parks and 19-plus miles of trail within its city limits. Parks and Recreation Director Jared Elbert said his department has been working to encourage people in Spencer to utilize the trails and green spaces located in their community by making them more accessible.

trail"We have so many trails, but we didn't have any designated markers for trail heads or parking lots," said Elbert. "Now we are helping people navigate through the trails system. They can easily find a starting point and once they're on the trail, they can find their way throughout Spencer."

New signage along the trail system will also include safety markers. Elbert said the wayfinding project is ongoing with the end goal to have a sign every quarter mile. The project started over a year ago and more installation happening this summer.  

Expanded gardens at YMCA

The Nature Classroom, used by pre-schoolers and school-aged children, at the Spencer Family YMCA started five years ago and has been a big hit with students who help plant, weed, water and harvest the two raised beds. With the help of 5-2-1-0 funding, the YMCA will be able to expand their garden programming.


"At an early age, its very important to teach kids about nutrition and a balanced diet," said Director of Childcare Amy Kuehler. "The kids love the gardening, digging for worms and  composting. They’re not just growing vegetables, they’re learning about all of the components that go along with it."

With the funds, the YMCA will be able to till a larger space for a community garden, build more garden beds, install fencing and purchase a greenhouse. The produce harvested is used during snack time for their children's programming and shared with YMCA families.

Community theater projects

The Spencer Community Theatre has a 31-year tradition of summer programming for students. While the main stage runs August through May, the summer at SCT is filled with teen and youth productions and 8-week summer camps for children age 3-14.

MORE 5-2-1-0 STORIES: Sergeant Bluff | Ottumwa

"In theater, your body is your instrument. Through the theater camps, we are huge proponents of learning with play," said SCT Executive Director Liz McNea. "The students are rolling around, being animals, using their whole body to be different characters. We want them to be able to explore theater safely."

5-2-1-0 funding will be used to purchase a water bottle filling station for SCT, mats to use during outdoor programming in the SCT courtyard, and a new dance floor to provide a safe surface for the instruction and rehearsal of choreography for children’s productions.

Learn more about 5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count! 

52105-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count! is a health-focused movement for kids that’s under the nationally recognized program, 5-2-1-0. It all starts by encouraging them to eat and play the right way.

This proven, scientific method helps keep kids healthy by focusing on the importance of four habits:

  • 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables
  • 2 hours or less of screen time (television, computer, video games, phones, etc.)
  • 1 hour or more of physical activity
  • 0 (or reduce) sugar-sweetened beverages - drink more water!

To learn more about how you can get your community, workplace, school, health care clinic or child care site involved in 5-2-1-0, click here.