Green Castle lake refilling nicely

GREEN CASTLE has lots of renovations in the works, some seen and some now hidden under water. This popular recreation area located one mile south of Ferguson has undergone a drastic drawdown of its lake water last fall and winter. A management plan was set in place to kill the rough fish, common carp, bullhead and a few other undesirables, from the hopelessly unbalanced fishery. The final poisoning of the small remaining pool of water last winter concluded one phase of the fish operation. Rotenone, a short lived chemical, was applied by Iowa Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Biologist Paul Sleeper. It did not take long for fish to become stressed and die from lack of oxygen. Many of their bony skeletons now lie at the bottom of the lake.

While the lake water was very low, another phase of renovation took place. Shoreline shaping, jetty building and silt removal were the primary tasks for contractors and staff of the Marshall County Conservation Board. The upper end of the lake has an all new look with at least eight new jetties. And those jetties and shoreline areas have a new rock facing (rip-rap) to help hold the shore by breaking up the force of wind blown waves.

Restocking of Green Castle’s water with fish has already begun Again State DNR fisheries staff assisted in a planned placement of fish in accord with published farm pond recommendations. Bass and catfish will round out this plan over the next two years. To keep common carp out of the renovated lake, fishermen are strongly advised to be the first line of defense against unwanted species. It is in the best interest of people who like to fish, who have spent good money on fish licenses, to know that professional fish management personnel want to assist in every way possible to remake Green Castle’s lake come back to prime condition.

An additional phase of construction also began during 2014. Namely, it includes a huge reshaping of the open area west of the lake to make way for a future modern RV campground. Basic grading has taken place to accommodate future camp site pads. A plan for how the campground area is envisioned to look like is available for review at the Marshall CCB office at the Conservation Center at the Grimes Farm. Progress to complete this work depends upon funding. Next year would be the time frame for phase one.

Phase one will have 21 camp sites with electrical, water and lake side easy access. A few of the sites are pull-through type design, others are traditional back in pads. When this segment is operational in a few years, the next step would be for phase two, the area on the hillside and at higher elevations for a potential 29 more camp sites. Phase two includes amenities of a shower house, dump station, playground, water and electrical hook-ups at each site plus a few pads with sewer hook-ups

The completion of the campground is a multi-year endeavor. It will take an estimated $650,000 for phase one. Phase two is larger in scope and has a tag of $1,000,000. As in any fund raising campaign, there are numerous players, supporters and mechanisms to secure funds from the smallest donations to the largest. Naming opportunities are available for significant contributions.

Green Castle Recreation Area was purchased in January of 1977. The hilly topography of this 116.5-acre area is well suited for the lake of 16 surface acres. Fishing and now kayaks or canoes are allowed. Hiking trails await people wanting to walk the one mile perimeter of the lake. Open air picnic facilities are abundant. Three shelter houses are in place for larger picnic groups. The largest enclosed shelter, Gander Lookout, can be reserved for a fee. Bookings are scheduled through the MCCB office or by calling 641-752-5490. This enclosed shelter features an all new wood look inside and out. The look was achieved with locally sawn native lumber. The shelter also has new windows and food line serving tables built in. Grills for barbecue are just outside.

Green Castle also features a wildlife exhibit of bison and trumpeter swans. Other free-ranging wildlife at the area include white-tailed deer, waterfowl, raccoon, An observatory for watching stars through a large telescope is managed by the Central Iowa Astronomy Club. Numerous shade trees offer summertime shelter from the sun. In summary, Green Castle is a great-get-away at any time of the year. Planned improvements will only add to the reasons you or the entire family should consider an exploration tour to Green Castle.

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PHEASANTS FOREVER had a great event last Saturday. A room full of supporters filled the tables and bid on a wide array of wildlife theme items. Of special note was a trio of 17-year-old South Tama High School students who are putting their talents to work in a business like fashion. One of their classes is called Industrial Technologies, small business class. Representing the high school and their class projects were RaeLeigh Purk, Jose Alcazar and Charles Kaufman. They brought along laser cut metal signs featuring outdoor scenes with pheasants and wood working projects and furniture of the highest quality.

The work of these three students has not gone unnoticed at Pheasants Forever headquarters. The trio have been invited to attend a future Minnesota PF event. They will also be in Des Moines during the National Pheasant Fest event on Feb. 21-22, 2015. Learning things about the world of business is an important skill to help these students make career choices. The class instructor is Jeff Niedermann.

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This weekend is the start of Iowa’s PHEASANT SEASON. Rooster pheasants are out there, having come back a bit from low population numbers of the past years. So it is not a doom and gloom situation but the fact is that pheasants numbers are very low compared to the highs we used to enjoy in the 1980s and 1990s. A lot has changed in the decades since then. Habitat has shrunk in the form of grasslands converted or lost as Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts expired. CRP lands lost in Iowa would, if bundled together in one strip of land, would be nine miles wide and stretch from Davenport to Council Bluffs. Rooster pheasant season will end Jan. 10, 2015. Survey show the peak hunting times are the first two weekends of the season, followed by slight upticks during Thanksgiving weekend. An estimated 42,000 pheasant hunters will at least try to hunt and get a bird or two or three. Be safe when hunting.

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LEAF COLOR seemed to peak this past week. But there are still plenty of scenic areas to take a close look at spectacular colors. The bike trail between Marshalltown and the Grimes Farm is one place to go. Hiking trails at any local county park will also offer a treat for ones eye, and camera. This free gift of nature’s best is available for you to enjoy.

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“The secret of contentment? Doing things that are good for the soul.”

– Douglas Pagels

Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.