Editor's Note: This is the second part of a story on the Palo Alto County Conservation Board and the services it offers. Future articles in this series will look into other services and offices in Palo Alto County.
Along with fishing and water recreation, there are opportunities for trails in the county as well. Work is continuing on the Lost Island Trails network, with over nine miles of paved trails available around Lost Island Lake, and the first phase of the Five Island Fitness Trail has been completed in Emmetsburg, of which the Conservation Board will assist with maintenance.
The Lost Island Trail has seen four phases completed, and the county Conservation Board has been able to secure grant funding of nearly $240,000 towards construction of the trails, with the Lost Island Protective Association partnering in the project to provide a 25 percent match for the grant funding.
For those interested in native prairie lands, the conservation board recently applied for a REAP grant to purchase a 24-acre tract of native prairie east of Ayrshire, known as the Leners Prairie. In the competitive grant process for the REAP funding, the conservation board's grant application was ranked first by REAP officials.
Hunters are equally fortunate to have a multitude of wildlife areas available in the county, including the Phelan Woods, a 55-acre tract of upland timber near Osgood along the Des Moines River. A 24.7-acre tract of land, the H.O. Helgen Slough, is located near Lost Island Lake and contains an 18-acre wetland and 6.7 adjacent acres of native grasslands.
A majority of the lands acquired by the Conservation Board have been paid for through grant funds awarded to the board. The ongoing process of grant writing has paid off for the organization, as in 2012; the conservation board received $525,334 in grant funding to pay for land acquisition and other projects and equipment purchases. In the 30-year existence of the Conservation Board, over $1.9 million in grant funds have been applied for and awarded to the conservation board.
Palo Alto County's Conservation Board compares favorably to many other county conservation operations in the state. As an example, Pocahontas County's Conservation board oversees 40 locations and 3,000 acres in the county, utilizing seven employees. Winnebago County oversees 31 areas, which cover 3,512 acres, along with 36 miles of public trails with three staff members. Emmet County operates nine areas with 1,216 acres with two full-time and four part-time employees. Many counties do not operate Nature Centers with the programming offered by Palo Alto County, or have the lake access found in our county.
To provide recreational and educational opportunities for the residents and visitors in Palo Alto County, a budget of $915,895 was initially proposed for fiscal year 2014-15 to accommodate the ongoing programs, maintain properties and meet various expenses. But in the interest of reducing governmental spending, the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors did trim $25,000 from the budget, bringing it down to $890,895, without any grant funding figured into the amount.
Despite the cuts, the conservation board continues to maintain the various tracts as in the past. In addition to the previously mentioned tracts, other tracts managed by the Conservation Board include the Rossiter Wildlife Area; Little Bit Of Prairie; Salton Park; Larson Prairie; Telford Prairie; Hauschen Wildlife Area; Burns Prairie; Bluestem Meadow Wildlife Area; Watson Heritage Wildlife Area; Brushy Bayou Wildlife Area; Rogers Wildlife Area; Thilges Wildlife Area; Mulroney Recreation Area; West Fork Wetlands; River Runner Access; West Bend Wildlife Area; Plantation Wildlife Area; Whitetail Flats Wildlife Area; Sportsman's Park; Basswood Recreation Area; Duhigg Park; Roads End Prairie; Prairie Gold Wildlife Area; Northern Plains Regional Wildlife Area; Riverview Wildlife Area and Lammers Landing.
For more information on County Conservation operations in the state of Iowa, go to: www.iaccb.com.