EVANSDALE, Iowa --- It's a bittersweet miracle for Heather and Drew Collins.
They're overwhelmed by the community support as contractors and volunteers began work over the weekend on Angels Park at Meyers Lake, named for their late abducted daughter Elizabeth Collins, and their niece, Lyric Cook-Morrissey.
"People just keep donating. It's amazing; it's overwhelming, all at the same time," Heather Collins said. "You never want to have to do something like that. You're supposed to go first --- before your children."
At the same time, she said, "We have so many people that love us. We consider all of them our family; all of our community, really. We're just a big huge family now, in Evansdale and the surrounding areas by their support for us. They consider the girls, Lyric and Elizabeth, their girls."
Contractors and backhoes dug up chunks of ice from the frozen lake Friday to begin work for a concrete foundation for a walkway between the existing lakeside park and island, where a gazebo will be constructed. One of the volunteers clearing undergrowth and brush trees for the gazebo site on the island was Drew Collins, Heather's husband and Elizabeth's father, who operates Planetary Tree Service.
"I know Drew and it's pretty emotional for him," Heather said. The girls' bikes were found at the lake July 13; their bodies were found in a wooded area near Readlyn in early December. The investigation into their abduction and deaths continue.
"We'd rather not to have to do this, that the girls were home with us and it never happened in the first place," Heather Collins said. "But what are you going to do about it? Something needs to be done. Something big."
One thing that can be done, she suggested, is making the lake, the park and the island a welcoming place, noting the island was always a little foreboding to young children. "Kids were scared. What we want to do is clear it out and make it look friendly," she said
Dona Frickson, who's coordinating volunteer efforts for the project and also is head of the Evansdale Chamber of Commerce, said clearing undergrowth and brush trees will give more room for the healthy trees on the island to flourish.
Heather Collins said she wants the public to look about the finished park and lake as "something joyful, in memory of the girls."
Frickson and Heather Collins said work on the gazebo itself may begin sometime after the spring thaw. The focus of the work now is on the walkway and site preparation work on the island. Frickson noted the walkway will have metal culverts within it to ensure a free flow of water and prevent stagnation.
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!