Family continues land purchase efforts

T-R PHOTO BY LANA BRADSTREAM Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation Trails and Greenways Director Andrea Boulton and the Pickard family — Julie, Barbara and Brian — look at a presentation about the effort to purchase a piece of land from the county. The presentation was made during the Marshall County Conservation Board meeting on Monday.

The Marshall County Conservation Board and the family of Julie Pickard are at an impasse.

At a Monday meeting, Pickard, her brother Brian and her mother Barbara presented their argument to purchase 7.1 acres of Eden township.

The board, knowing the Heart of Iowa path will go through that land, are reluctant to part with it.

Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation Trails and Greenways Director Andrea Boulton said such situations are not uncommon with recreational paths.

“We’ve seen trails with gaps and it takes a long time for those gaps to find solutions,” she said. “It’s important to note the Heart of Iowa nature trail is more than just a path. It’s a great regional asset to these communities here in Marshall and Story counties.”

Boulton said the path has been identified in national trails groups who are pushing it forward. She encouraged the board to explore all options before losing the trail route, which Boulton said is an attractive and family-friendly route.

Jeff Schneider, Marshalltown Co. Information Technology Director and Vice President of TRAILS, Inc., told the board the trail is part of a national project which would improve quality of life and have economic benefit.

“We will literally have people from all over the world coming to ride this trail,” he said. “I hope we can come to some amicable solution to this.”

The Pickard family has been taking care of that land in the Eden township since 1972.

Brian said the land has no value as crops are not on it and there is no fence. He told the board they are just trying to purchase the right of passage and ensure control of the property.

Board member Tom Mack has a difficult time accepting the board will part with it.

“I just don’t see us selling it because we are in the recreational land business,” he said.

Mack referenced tactics used by the Iowa Conservation Commission. He said when they wanted land, they would sometimes wait for the owner to die.

“They just bought what they could and waited for other people to die,” Mack said. “For what it’s worth, you have been using it for many years for nothing. That’s fine with me.”

The land, west of Highway 330, is used by the Pickards regularly and they already have an access agreement.

The family wants to buy the property to keep strangers out of their pasture, where they have roughly 30 head of cattle.

Pickard said mud runners like to go up and down the road when it rains. There is no fence on either side of the property and cattle get into crops, old phone cables are hanging down, culverts are failing and trespassing is an issue. The Pickards maintain the road and control the noxious weeds running through the land at a cost of $2,000 per year. The goal behind buying the property is to provide a permanent easement to landowners and get some new green space for the Pickard’s cattle.

By maintaining the current arrangement, the Pickards could continue using the land, but are unable to do whatever they want with it.

The possibility of a lease was briefly discussed, but no vote was taken.

After the meeting, Pickard said she was not expecting action to be taken, but did want to start the discussion, even though she was not happy with how the talk went.

“I don’t think they understand,” she said. “They think we are disposable. You know, my mom’s going to die, I’m going to die, my brother’s going to die, his son’s going to die and then they will finally get it.”

Brian said a viable option would be to reroute the Heart of Iowa trail as running it alongside their pasture where bulls will be does not sit well with him. Barbara said people tend to frighten the cattle when they run toward them to take pictures.

“It doesn’t do any good to open it up for a bike and then an accident happens and causes us to lose our ground,” Brian said. “That’s a real issue.”

Brian said his family might die, but maybe a new Marshall County Conservation Board will come along.


Contact Lana Bradstream

at 641-753-6611 or



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