Jones Co. Conservation offers educational tour

Posted September 20, 2013 at 9:23 am

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PHOTO: The scenery from Whitewater Canyon is breathtaking. This was the first stop on the Jones County Conservation Tour, which took place on Sept. 11.

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PHOTO: The final stop on the Jones County Conservation Tour throughout the county was the new Pearson Addition to Central Park. George and Rose Pearson sold 80 acres of land adjacent to the park to help protect Central Park Lake for future generations. (Photos by Kim Brooks)

 

By Kim Brooks, Express Editor

If you were to visit every Jones County Conservation site, where would you begin? Would you even know where many of these wildlife areas are located?

Thanks to the Conservation department and its partners, a county conservation tour was organized on Sept. 11. The list of those invited to go along for the afternoon included the local newspapers, the four area legislators (Hein, Zumbach, Bowman and Moore), Jones County Supervisors, Conservation Board members, Conservation staff members, guest speakers, neighboring county conservation leaders, IDNR, members of Pheasants Forever and more. Also along for the ride was Brad Moremann, the new Jones County Conservation director, replacing Larry Gullett.

After a Jones County Soil & Water tour a couple months ago, Jones County Conservation thought it would be a good idea to organize a similar tour of conservation spots across the county. This would be the perfect opportunity to introduce county and state legislators to the rich history and heritage right here in Jones County.

The stops along the route included Camp Courageous, Whitewater Canyon/Lost Canyon, Eby’s Mill Wildlife Area and Central Park, along with the new Pearson Addition of the park.

At each stop, there were guest speakers on hand. These speakers come from a variety of professions, all partners with Jones County Conservation.

“Who better to tell the stories than our partners?” Conservation Office Manager Rose Rohr said.

The common theme along the tour was “partners.” Jones County Conservation would not be able to do all that it has accomplished without partnering with other organizations and government entities who offer financial support, time and service toward every project.

“That’s how Conservation needs to be viewed,” Rohr said, “as partners. No one person makes it all possible.”

After hearing about the history and future of Camp Courageous, the group boarded the Camp bus and headed to Whitewater Canyon.

Whitewater is comprised of 562 acres and is located in both Jones and Dubuque counties. Aside from being an historic site, there are walking trails, a scenic overlook and hunting grounds. It is managed in cooperation with Dubuque County Conservation.

Brian Preston, Dubuque County Conservation director, said in 2007, the Whitewater Canyon land was up for sale. The hefty price tag was possible due to partnering with Pheasants Forever and the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.

“We had a number of funding sources,” he said, that helped make the project possible.

There are 80 acres of natural prairie and 8,000 trees. The Lost Canyon portion of the property belongs to Jones County, which is roughly 180 acres.

“This project would not have been possible without the cooperation of the landowners, Dick and Arlene Henneberry,” Preston acknowledged. “It’s gotten a lot of public support.”

Next on the tour was Eby’s Mill Wildlife Area. This is in the process of becoming Jones County land, and will eventually be opened to the public.

Thanks to a REAP grant, Jones County received $702,000 to acquire the area from the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.

According to the Jones County Conservation website, “The property is valued in excess of $1.8 million. Previous landowners (family members of the Arnie Bruggeman estate) sold the land at a bargain price. In addition private donors from the Iowa City area donated $1 million to make the acquisition possible.”

Within the Eby’s Mill property (over 500 acres), there is about 1.5 miles of Maquoketa River frontage, 406 acres of forest and 55 acres of open land/small fields. Conservation is working with Iowa DNR to form a plan that will include planting trees and prairie in the open areas.

Also on this site is a cave, of which AmeriCorps members and the Office of the State Archaeologist have been working long hours to sift through the remains of historical artifacts. Already, they’ve found more than 15,000 pieces of animal bone, pottery shards, tools and more, that is estimated to date back to A.D. 500 and A.D. 1,000.

John Doershuk, director of the Office of the State Archaeologist, said they’ve been able to form a “dynamic” partnership with AmeriCorps in connection with this project.

“It’s really exciting,” he said.

He said while the cave was looted some 20 years ago, right now they are trying to stabilize the site and allow Conservation to monitor the grounds to open it up to the public.

“You’d be surprised by the stories this place could tell,” Doershuk said of their discoveries thus far and the history associated with Eby’s Mill.

Due to time constraints, the final stop was Central Park, as well as the Pearson Addition. In May, George and Rose Pearson of rural Center Junction, sold 80 acres of their property adjacent to the Park to help protect Central Park Lake for future generations. According to the Conservation website, “Without the Pearson property, any attempt to restore the lake and remove it from the impaired waters list would have been at serious risk of failure. For the nearly 60,000 people per year that use the area, we owe the Pearsons a big thank you!”

The Pearson Addition will be used to construct two large ponds and a wetland to protect the lake from sediment and nutrient-rich runoff and provide additional recreational opportunities for park users. The property will eventually be converted into tall grass prairie and wildflowers, with a mowed trail system. It will also provide a habitat for pheasants, deer and other wildlife in Jones County. Conservation will also use the property of environmental educational programs.

Helping to make the Pearson Addition a reality was working with Twin Rivers Pheasants Forever. Matt McQuillen, with Twin Rivers Pheasants Forever, said it’s all about partnering with the right people to make things happen.

To learn more about Jones County Conservation, visit their website at www.jonescountyiowa.org/Pages/Conservation.aspx.

On Sunday, Sept. 22, from 1-3 p.m., AmeriCorps NCCC, in conjunction with the Jones County Conservation Board and the Iowa Office of the State Archeologists, is inviting the community to take part in an AmeriCorps NCCC Volunteer Archaeology Day. AmeriCorps will facilitate the cleaning of artifacts found on the Eby’s Mill site. A speaker from the state archeologists office will give a presentation on the cave and its inhabitants. Snacks will also be provided.

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