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Park project upgrades are happening

PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG Green Castle Recreation Area is located one mile south of the little city of Ferguson. It was purchased in 1977 and opened Jan. 1 of that year just to allow ice fishermen/ladies to pursue fish from under a thick layer of ice. Since those early years, a series of park developments have taken place including roadways, shelter houses, fishing jetties, tree plantings in some areas and prairie grasses in other. A bison pen was created and a small herd of American Bison can be viewed. The 16 acres of surface water of the lake is the main drawing card for public use. Now in 2024, a major development is currently underway to create a modern RV campground and support facilities. Shaping of the future camping terraces is underway along the west shore of the lake. Phase one of this multi-year project has the green light for development.

Green Castle is a jewel of a park, nestled away in the rolling Southern Iowa Drift Plain hills of Marshall County. The park is located one mile south of Ferguson or about 11 miles from downtown Marshalltown.

The land area is 116.5 acres and the lake surface has 16 acres of impounded water. Three smaller retention ponds hold much of the watershed runoff, and if there is a silt load in that water, it can settle out prior to water flow into the main lake. The lake provides opportunities for public fishing, carry-in canoes or kayaks, shoreline hiking trails, day use picnic facilities, and wildlife viewing.

The lake waters were extensively lowered in 2011 and 2012. In 2013, with very low water, a planned fish kill took place, in part to rid the lake of the common carp fish population that had severely degraded the water quality for other sport fishes, and secondly, to allow for removal of a lot of sediment/silt accumulation.

Those silty soil excavations were disposed of on adjacent hillsides inside the park. Shoreline deepening took place. More fishing jetties were built and the lake shoreline was protected with stone rip rap to dissipate wave action.

As the lake water refilled, new fish stockings were accomplished in 2014. Submerged along the shorelines are numerous fish habitat structures such as stake beds and rock piles where fish can hide, find food, and escape predatory fishes.

Fish in the lake include large mouthed bass, northern pike, bluegill, crappie, channel catfish, and walleye. Anglers trying to get any of these fish to bite a lure or worm baited hook can do so from the shoreline, a jetty, or from a canoe or kayak. Fishing is fun and well worth family time as people pursue fish.

Construction activities are now underway to make that portion of phase one of a camping area catering to RVs. This was made possible by the awarding of a grant from Destination Iowa, that awarded $400,000 to Marshall County specifically for Green Castle.

Prior to the grant award, traditional financing sources were hard to come by. So this grant was the perfect fit to coincide with additional money from the American Rescue Plan Act. Added to this were other fund raising avenues from the Community Foundation, donations from Lennox, and other private donations.

When put together, the funding allowed for bid letting. That is the work people will see now if one travels to Green Castle.

The park is open to the public. Just be careful to avoid walking into areas of active construction. Weidner Construction Company is doing the heavy earth work and will build the shower house facility.

What does Phase One have as its objectives? Grading the future campground area where three pull through campsites, and 14 back-in RV slots will be built. Each site will have water and electricity hookups.

A family style shower house is included. A dump site for RV gray and black water disposal will be accomplished. Plans also call for Americans with Disabilities (ADA) playground area, and a few campsites that will be ADA compliant.

It will take time to finish phase one. Final landscaping and grass seeding, tree planting and other details will all take place in due time this summer, fall and into next spring. An official opening of the new campground remains a long way off. Do call the Marshall County Conservation office at the Grimes Farm, 641-752-5490 to learn about updates and progress notes from Green Castle.

Long range plans for Phase Two will involve an expansion of the camp ground. An additional 29 campsites are envisioned along with water, electrical and some sewer hookups.

Those campsites will be set on large terraces graded into the big hill located west of the lake. Over time, Green Castle will become a campground destination of the highest caliber, fit for outdoor excursions and modern camping equipment.

As Director Emily Herring said in her comments in the Spring 2024 issue of Seasons newsletter, “If you build it, they will come.” Congratulations to the MCCB staff and board members for having the vision to make it happen.

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Iowa River ramblings and updates are now in the history books. Recent abundant spring rains have been timely and well received.

Dry soils have soaked up that precious water to now supply plants of all types and farm crops of new corn and soybeans. Prairie plants with their extensively deep root systems are well adapted to survive anyway, now made all the more likely with good rains. Forests will respond with tree roots taking up ample supplies of moisture to pump water to the top of and ends of every branch and leaf.

Rain waters did have an effect upon tributary stream flows. As those drainage ways filled, excess water eventually found its way into the Iowa River itself, enough so that the river levels increased substantially to bank full. The lowest of the lowland floodplains did get some overflow.

The famous “Lake Marshalltown” between Highway 14 and North Center Street witnessed a bit of backflow flooding that began in earnest on May 9 and crested on May 10 at 5 p.m. with a gauge reading of 17.28 feet.

As of mid week, river water levels continue a slow and steady decline. On Wednesday, the Corps of Engineers’ gauge reading was near the 14.5 foot mark, well within its banks but still high. The river will continue to lower even if a few scattered showers happen during this weekend.

During spring time higher water flows in rivers, fish populations disperse from winter habitats. We cannot see the fish migrating upstream, but they are moving against the current. Iowa River fish species that make use of refreshing flows are channel catfish, northerns, walleye, bass and many others.

Nature has its ways to refresh and renew. People need to learn the beauty of patience.

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Wild turkey final numbers are in. Statewide hunters took 16,059 bearded turkeys during the spring of 2024. This surpassed the 2023 record of 14,843.

All 99 counties had reports of wild turkey harvests. The top county was Clayton with 649. The lowest was Osceola with just three.

Obviously all counties are not equal in habitat favorable for turkeys. The more forested eastern one third of Iowa accounts for the bulk of turkey takes. Dry summers during 2022 and 2023 did allow for favorable nest success by hen turkeys, according to Jim Coffey, DNR Forest Wildlife Research Biologist.

Next on the population monitoring will be gathering reports of young turkeys during July and August. Observers can report sightings to Jim Coffey by a call to him at 641-774-2958, or use the website https://www.iowadnr.gov/Hunting/Turkey-HJunting/Wild-Turkey-Survey.

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Today’s quote is a good one. “Do something everyday that you don’t want to do; this is the golden rule for acquiring the habit of doing your duty without pain.” — Mark Twain.

Garry Brandenburg is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. He is a graduate of Iowa State University with a BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology.

Contact him at:

P.O. Box 96

Albion, IA 50005

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