Lake Iowa Park Free Little Library

Lake Iowa Nature Center is now home to a Little Free Library. You may have noticed more and more of these little boxes popping up in our community and wondered what they were. A Little Free Library is a
“take a book, return a book” free book exchange. They come in many shapes and sizes, but the most common version is a small wooden box of books. Anyone may take a book or bring a book to share. Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around
the world.  In fact there are over 60,000 libraries in over 80 countries around the world and over a million books are shared each year!

The general idea behind the Little Free Libraries is to take a book to read in exchange for a book you want to share. It doesn’t require library cards or impose late fines. They don’t insist that patrons whisper or stay quiet, and don’t mind if you do not return a book.

Anyone can start a Little Free Library by either building one or ordering a premade one online. There are endless ways to personalize your library. Are you a muggle passionate about sharing all things Harry Potter? Get out your paint and create a mini Flourish and Blotts. Can’t build a box to save your life? Dig around your attic or garage or the nearest thrift store for useful items to reuse. Little free libraries have been created from mini fridges, hollowed out tree stumps, and old pay phones.

Each little Free Library is registered online and receives a plaque. Once registered they appear on a world-wide map at  https://littlefreelibrary.org/ourmap/. The interactive map will show you where all registered Free Little Libraries are located. These book-filled boxes are becoming destinations for bike and walking tours, family tours of small towns, and geocachers.

You can find ours on the front porch stocked with interesting authors just waiting to take you on an adventure.

 

Lake Iowa Park Upgrades

Camping season will soon be upon us…if Mother Nature would just give in and let the sun shine through these cold dreary clouds. Our staff has been busily preparing for all our campers with cabin fever by prepping the shower houses and cleaning up campsites.

Iowa County Conservation strives to provide the most for our campers.  We are taking another look at the Lake Iowa Campground which first opened in 1962 to 50 campers. The smaller pull behind campers that used to populate our campsites have grown into big diesel pushers and we are following suit. We added longer pull through sites and a new easier to use dump station in recent years and in 2017 we upgraded sites 1 through 23 to a 50 amp service to accommodate these big rigs. In the spring of 2018 we plan to upgrade another 20 sites to 50 amp. We have cleaned up sites by removing railroad ties and leveling or lengthening sites.

We have non-electric sites near the entrance of the campground that have sat unused for years that are being uncovered. Once parking has been created for Non-Electric Site A we will open it for use. Folks who prefer tents to campers are always welcome to set up camp at any site, electric or non-electric, as long as the correct fee is paid. Our rates will stay the same in 2018 with electric sites at $16/night and non-electric sites at $10/night.

The last upgrade we are planning for the Lake Iowa Campground in 2018 is remodeling the Round House, the rent-able shelter situated in the campground. The decor of the Round House could best be described as 70’s Yard Sale with its mismatched chairs and wood paneling. A new metal roof was installed in 2017 and as with any project once you spruce up one thing you see how shabby some other things are getting. Our staff has been busy gutting the paneling and dropped ceiling tiles. Once we have an empty shell the electrician can rewire the building and we can install new knotty pine tongue and groove siding. With plans to use this rent-able space for more than birthday parties and family reunions we will also be adding futon bunk beds so that it can be rented for overnight stays. It will continues to have heat and air conditioning but will not have bathroom or kitchen facilities.

The last change for 2018 will be the overhaul of 230th Street. Currently the asphalt road is at the mercy of freezing and thawing temperatures and farm equipment. It shows quite a bit of wear each spring. To avoid repairing the road repeatedly the asphalt will be replaced with cement. The project is scheduled to begin on June 4th and will take a minimum of 75 days. Visitors to Lake Iowa Park should plan to use a detour. Those driving from the north or via Interstate 80 can turn west onto 216th Street immediately south of I-80. 216th Street is a gravel road and turns into G Avenue which will lead you to Lake Iowa Park. Visitors traveling from south of the park can take H Avenue to 266th Street which connects with G Avenue.

With all the upgrades we hope visitors find Lake Iowa Park to be a great place to call your home away from home.

2018 Urban Youth Corps Grant

We are excited to announce that Iowa County Conservation has received the Iowa Department of Transportation Urban Youth Corps (UYC) grant for the summer of 2018. The UYC grant allows us to hire people 16 to 25 years of age to construct transportation related items. In past years we have constructed, updated or restored trails, constructed foot bridges and land bridges, and restored areas by removing invasive plant species or cleaning trash so they are usable to the public.

Not only do many of our conservation properties benefit from the UYC grant but the UYC staff get some extra training than they might not receive at other summer jobs. They receive safety training for hand and power tools and construction equipment. They receive CPR- AED certification. Our full time ICCB staff also works with UYC staff on skills such as writing a resume and going to a job interview. The UYC staff also learns important construction and conservation techniques.

For many of our young hires the Urban Youth Corps is their first 40 hour/week job. They begin to see the value of a hard day’s work when they take steep uneven terrain choked with Autumn Olive and Honeysuckle and turn it into a hiking trail. They take pride in finished projects that will can be seen for years to come. The work is hot and dirty and sometimes the team finds itself waist high in a lake or pond but soon they learn the value of teamwork and leadership skills. They get to see the planning process and learn how and why a project needs to follow certain criteria. UYC kids also get to have some fun and participate in team builders and outings.

This summer we hope to hire 4 crew members that will build and restore trails at Lake Iowa Park and Gunderson Wildlife Area as well as clean up other remote properties. Crew members begin in June and projects are wrapped up in August in time for students to return to high school or college.

Summers spent as a UYC crewmember have left an indelible mark on some of our alumni. We have seen kids return to work as seasonals and full time staff members and seen others decide they are well suited for a career in conservation. With all that is packed into a summer as a UYC crewmember it is more than just a job. It helps form the adults they are becoming and gives them the confidence to challenge themselves in the future.

Applications for a seasonal position as a UYC crew member can be found at http://www.co.iowa.ia.us/jobs.htm. The deadline for applications is May 1st.

Online Cabin Rentals Begin October 24, 2016

 

If you’ve driven through Lake Iowa Park within the last year, you’ll be happy to hear that construction on the two 20ft x 30ft cabins has been completed. Online reservations for the new cabins are set to launch Monday October 24th at 8:00 a.m.

These cabins were built in the campground on the previous site of the warming shed above the old sledding hill. That building was eventually turned into a make-shift nature center before it was torn down in 2012 to make way for cabins.

The south cabin (or Lakeview Cabin) was constructed by the combined efforts of the HLV Tech IV shop class and the Iowa County Conservation Board staff. All of the work on the north cabin (or Timberview Cabin) was contracted out.

Each cabin is ADA compliant and will sleep up to 8 people. They have a full kitchen with misc. dinnerware, cookware, utensils, a toaster, coffee maker, microwave, stove, and a full-size refrigerator. The bathroom has a walk in shower and the living room boasts a full-size futon and large dining table with chairs. There are two bedrooms; one with a queen bed and one with unique “full” size bunk beds.

The Friends of Iowa County Conservation Foundation stepped in and made sure that each of them contained beautiful hand-made log furniture that really drives home that cabin feel.

Making cabins at Lake Iowa a reality has been in the works since the year 2000. Many cabins throughout Iowa have been toured, and with all that collaborative effort for more than a decade, the Iowa County Conservation Board and staff decided on a location and design that was believed to be the perfect fit. In 2014, the Iowa County Conservation Board received a donation of over $20,000 from the estate of Alice Williamson that immediately went to help get both cabin foundations poured and the rest is history.

The cabins will be rentable all year long. Renters will have to bring along linens (including pillows) for bedding along with toiletries and food.

There has already been tremendous interest in people wanting to rent the cabins. It’s the perfect place to stay when you want to go ice fishing, or a camper that wants to stay in their park during the “off season”, or to just get away and enjoy the outdoors.

The cabin will run $110 per night with typically a two night minimum stay. For more information or to reserve your cabin with a debit or credit card, please visit mycountyparks.com and select “Iowa County” under cabins. 20161017_081816 dining-for-webimg_4455 img_4456

Big Bend and the Iowa Valley Scenic Byway

 

Map of Big Bend Conservation Area

A new interpretive sign was installed along the Iowa Valley Scenic Byway at Big Bend Conservation Area, north of Marengo. The Iowa Valley Scenic Byway is a 77-mile state-designated route from Montour to the Amana Colonies. It travels through 14 communities. The new sign is one of many projects led by the Iowa Valley RC&D and the Iowa Valley Scenic Byway Board. The new colorful signs placed along the byway are intended to connect travelers with local resources.

The sign at Big Bend Conservation Area shares information about wetland restoration. Big Bend has around 360 acres: 100 acres of wetland, and the remainder in low-land timber with large silver maple trees. The property has typically been subject to littering, vandalism, and illegal harvesting of wildlife/timber. Iowa County Conservation has received a grant to get some extra help to clean up the property. Hopefully, with the watchful eye of civilians, and additional help from other law enforcement agencies, Big Bend Conservation Area will return to a thriving wetland that can be used by hikers, anglers, and responsible hunters.

If you see illegal activity, report it immediately, call 911.
If you want to report potential issues or have questions, call 319-655-8465.

 

Busy mixing cement Working hard moving cement
Leveling the cement for the sign Staff of Iowa County Conservation, NRCS, and RC&D at the dedication of the Scenic Byway Sign at Big Bend Conservation Area
The new wetland sign at Big Bend Conservation Area

 

Disc Golf Course at Lake Iowa Park

There have been some exciting changes happening with Iowa County Conservation. One of the latest being a new recreational opportunity – disc golf. The Lake Iowa Park Disc Golf course encompasses a few miles of great scenery that passes some hidden treasures and connects with the lakeside trail at times.

The course starts at the beach parking lot and loops around to end at the beach parking lot. There is a halfway point at the turnaround, the furthest point you can drive on the far side of the lake (note map).

If attempting only the first nine, we’d suggest dropping a vehicle off at the turnaround to save your group the walk back., this is an ideal option when facing time constraints. .

throwing

THINGS TO REMEMBER:
Bring water, there are no functional hydrants along the way.
– Pick up after yourself and be courteous of others.
– There are trash cans and pit toilets available at every shelter, the course goes by several.
– All dogs must be on a leash.
– Watch out for vehicles and other park goers, this course runs along roads and trails.
– There are a lot of hazards on this course, be careful of the water and tall grass/bushes.
– This course is several miles long, be sure to be prepared for the hike!