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Encyclopedia Dubuque

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PARK LIFE

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PARK LIFE. Pioneering Dubuque program to prevent juvenile delinquency. Park Life was the idea of B. J. HORCHEM, a Dubuque educator and principal of AUDUBON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. Established in 1907 as an outdoor camp where boys planted gardens and studied nature, Park Life was Horchem's way of keeping city children involved in positive activities over the summer. He hoped that eventually the public schools would become year-round making the summer outdoor classes part of the regular program. His motto was "Form, Not Reform." The program was incorporated in 1911 with a board of directors that included Judge Matthew C. MATTHEWS, George W. Myers, Robert Percy ROEDELL and a board of trustees that included twenty-four of Dubuque's most prominent business and professional leaders.

Horchem began with a small number of boys who set up tents and planted a garden near EAGLE POINT PARK. The boys slept in the tents, tended their garden, and cooked their own food. When not gardening, the boys took nature hikes and developed their ability to identify birds and plants. Visiting lecturers were invited to the camp.

Despite glowing reports on the project in national magazines, Park Life had a difficult time financially. Horchem kept the project going initially using his own money. Local businessmen later came to his aid. On April 21, 1911, Park Life was incorporated. The following year, the 415-acre Zollicoffer farm just north of Dubuque was purchased for Park Life use.

The financial prosperity of Park Life was short-lived and the movement came to an end. Despite Horchem’s plans to establish metal and woodworking shops, financial aid to the project gradually declined. The development of other youth organizations also took away potential members.