Off the Beaten Path: Altoona’s Enabling Garden

“Off the Beaten Path” is sponsored by the City of Altoona.

Ever met a 12-foot praying mantis? You will at the Enabling Garden, a hidden gem tucked away near the Altoona Hy-Vee, just off the Vern Willey II Bike Trail.

Here, in this two-acre patch of paradise, you and your family are free to explore an interactive Children’s Garden – with a sandpit, wood blocks, benches, a tee-pee and more – alongside beautiful annuals and perennials, a meditative water feature, and a series of imaginative sculptures by Iowa’s own John Brommel, including a tall but friendly mantis. (If Brommel’s work looks familiar, it’s because he’s an Altoona favorite. He’s the same artist responsible for the frog outside the Altoona Library and the 1950’s-style rocket ship at Haines Park.)

The garden was designed to enable everyone to enjoy it—hence the name, the Enabling Garden. It features innovative, barrier-free design elements – like raised beds and vertical wall gardens – that accommodate people of all ages and abilities. Signs planted around the garden explain how these elements promote accessibility, adding an educational component that both kids and adults will appreciate.

From the Enabling Garden, you can easily walk to a bike trail, a pond, a splashpad and several local restaurants.

It’s the perfect spot for you and your family to park your bikes, say “hello” to a meditating mantis, and explore a beautifully quirky corner of Altoona.

Rooted in Community

The roots of the Enabling Garden reach all the way back to 2002, when the project was conceived as a collaboration between the City of Altoona and the Polk County Master Gardeners. It was partially funded by the Facebook Altoona Community Action Grant program. Today, dozens of volunteers continue to maintain the park.

A Garden with a Mission

The mission of the Enabling Garden is to demonstrate ways that gardens can be developed and adapted to accommodate people of all ages and abilities, empowering everyone to experience the beauty of nature and the joy of gardening.

Plan Your Trip

  • What: The Enabling Garden is a two-acre oasis with an interactive Children’s Garden, beautifulannuals and perennials, sculptures, a meditative pond, and innovative accessibility features. Through the joy of nature, this unique garden promotes calm, empathy, creativity and well-being for children and adults of all ages.
  • Where: 1050 1st Avenue South in Altoona, 50009 (near the Altoona Hy-Vee and just off the Vern Willey Bike Trail)
  • Cost: Free

Thank you to the City of Altoona for sponsoring Off the Beaten Path! As a sponsor of Visit Altoona, the City of Altoona is continuing to pursue its mission of driving economic growth, promoting local businesses, and preserving the one-of-a-kind character of our nearly 150-year-old community.