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County parks see increase in usage

T-R PHOTO BY LANA BRADSTREAM - Mario Alcocer enjoys a day of fishing at Sand Lake on Sunday. He has been fishing there every weekend since the pandemic began.

All outdoor recreational activities in Marshall County are open and a lot of people are participating.

Marshall County Conservation Director Mike Stegmann said the county parks were never closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, even though the Conservation Center was and still is. Camping was temporarily unavailable, but returned in May.

“We never really shut down,” he said.

Since the pandemic began, Stegmann said he has witnessed an overall increase of outdoor participation of 200 percent.

“More people are sitting in their cars, watching the waves of Sand Lake and the Iowa River; on their lawn chairs reading books; fishing and boating,” he said. “People wanted to get outside. They were looking for stuff to do and we gladly provided the opportunities. Hopefully we have introduced and reintroduced people to the county parks.”

Even though there are no hunting seasons in June, Stegmann said there was a record turkey season and that people are eagerly waiting for pheasant, deer and water fowl.

Fishing has been spotty with the weather being colder and wetter, he said. However, people are still trying to catch the ones that got away. The conservation staff have been making shoreline fishing more accessible, cutting down the weeds so fishers can easily cast their lines and not get tangled up in vegetation.

With the increase usage, Stegmann said people are still adhering to social distancing recommendations and the county has not a problem in reminding people.

“Reconnecting with Mother Nature might be what people need right now,” he said. “It’s quiet. As always, I encourage people to get out and take a look at what Mother Nature offers. This is a chance to see Iowa as it was 200 years ago.”

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Contact Lana Bradstream at 641-753-6611 or lbradstream@timesrepublican.com.

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