PROGRESS 2022: Multiple Marshall County Conservation projects completed in last year

T-R PHOTO BY SUSANNA MEYER — The Marshall County Conservation Board recently acquired an open-air shelter, and it was installed beside Sand Lake for visitors’ use.

Promoting and preserving nature is the name of the game for the Marshall County Conservation Board (MCCB) and the Friends of Marshall County Conservation (FMCC). Whether it’s promoting Grimes Farm and the Conservation Center or repairing park landmarks, they work hard to meet their goals year after year.

Carrie Grimes Barr, who is the daughter of the original owners of Grimes Farm, Leonard and Mildred Grimes, as well as the former president of FMCC, is passionate about the land her parents left behind, and one of the ways she has been promoting the nature preserve is through her book “Leonard and Mildred Play Hide-and-Seek at the Grimes Farm.”

The book, modeled after “Mudgy and Millie” by Susan Nipp, follows Leonard the white-tailed deer and Mildred the deer mouse, who play hide and seek at Grimes Farm. It is designed to be read while visiting the property, and it acts as a kind of guide for readers since the characters visit different Grimes Farm landmarks during their adventure.

The book was published late last year, and Grimes Barr has been promoting it since then to encourage the Marshalltown Community to visit Grimes Farm. She said she has noticed an increase in foot traffic since the book was published, especially since the Leonard and Mildred Day event in June.

“We had such a fun kind of grand opening,” Grimes Barr said. “Lots of people came out, and I still get calls. People send me pictures of their kids with the little stuffed animals out there walking along the trails, so yes, it has been really fun and it really drew attention to a couple of the sites at the Grimes Farm that people didn’t realize were there.”

T-R PHOTO BY SUSANNA MEYER —Carrie Grimes Barr holds stuffed plushies of Leonard and Mildred, the characters in her book “Leonard and Mildred Play Hide-and-Seek at the Grimes Farm.” Grimes Barr wrote the book to draw attention to Grimes Farm and it was published late last year.

The book highlighted the Deer Trail and the Wild Black Raspberry Trail, and those trails were previously less well known to visitors.

The book hasn’t been the only strategy to draw visitors to Grimes Farm, though, as the FMCC is also presenting a summer concert series called Live and Local all summer. Each month, from June to October, they have invited a different band to play a concert for the community at the Leonard Grimes Memorial Amphitheater.

Grimes Barr said the events hosted at Grimes Farm by the conservation board and the FMCC really align with the overarching goal of the two organizations as a whole.

“One of the goals of conservation boards is to involve people in nature so that they learn to love it, and all the different activities that they do educate and involve people, and make them love nature, and that’s really the goal for everybody,” she said.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO — Carrie Grimes Barr wrote “Leonard and Mildred Play Hide-and-Seek at the Grimes Farm” to highlight the Grimes Farm nature preserve. The book follows a deer mouse and a white tailed deer as they play hide and seek, and throughout their adventure, they visit different Grimes Farm landmarks.

In addition to their various events and promotions, the conservation board and the FMCC are also working on other projects to better parks and nature in Marshall County.

Conservation Director Mike Stegmann said numerous small projects are in progress throughout Marshall County, and some of the most recent physical improvements include an upgrade to the available playground equipment in Grammer Grove Wildlife Area and the installation of an open-air shelter house at Sand Lake.

Those facilities are being used on an almost daily basis, according to Stegmann, and while they are small improvements, he said they are still notable.

Fundraising for the installation of a shower house at the Timmons Grove campground and the construction of a campground at the Green Castle Recreation Area is also well under way. Stegmann said they are waiting to hear back about a Destination Iowa Grant to determine how they will go forward with bid letting for those projects.

Stegmann felt Marshall County has been lacking in public camping facilities, and he believed it was important to provide those outdoor recreation facilities to both residents and visitors because it makes spending time in nature all the more appealing.

“The upgraded amenities are an obvious attraction,” Stegmann said. “The more attractions that we can make, the more people we’re going to have utilizing those types of facilities.”

The conservation board were also able to OK the reconstruction of a historic suspension bridge at Three Bridges Park that was destroyed during the 2020 derecho. Three Bridges is one of the oldest parks in Marshall County, and the project, which is currently in progress, is slated for completion sometime this fall.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO — The suspension bridge at the Three Bridges County Park is buried under debris after the 2020 derecho, however repairs to the bridge are currently underway and will most likely be completed later this year.

The list doesn’t end there. The MCCB was also able to acquire additional wetlands property near Timmons Grove, and they expanded the boundaries of the wildlife habitat already in the area.

To make it happen, they worked through the Iowa Heritage Foundation to secure the property from the private landowners, and now, the conservation board is in the process of raising money to repay the Heritage Foundation for the acquisition. It didn’t happen overnight, and it took roughly three years for it to be official.

This property will be available for a range of uses including educational opportunities, the preservation of the habitat for both game and non-game animals, and it will also be used as a public hunting area.

“We’re the only agency that offers public hunting areas in the county, and they get heavily used. Marietta Sand Prairie, the Iowa Wildlife Area, Klauenberg Prairie, all those areas get heavily utilized by the hunting community, and again, there are no state areas or federal areas in the county that offer those amenities for that user group,” Stegmann said.

The conservation board didn’t work alone to make these projects a reality though. Tom Swartz, the president of the FMCC, said they helped with fundraising for the property acquisition as well as the Three Bridges Suspension Bridge project and numerous other projects since last July. They also sponsor Grimes Farm events like the Live and Local concert series.

“That’s the purpose of (the Friends of Marshall County Conservation). You know, it was created to carry on the appreciation of the outdoors and to assist and utilize (Grimes Farm) and also the other county parks, and the generosity and the commitment to generosity of the Grimes family,” Swartz said.

Looking back at the progress the MCCB has made in the last year, Stegmann is excited to continue the work they have been doing to better the parks and nature areas in Marshall County and to instill a love for nature in the community through events at Grimes Farm.

“If we can get people out to the Grimes Farm and the Conservation Center and try to reintroduce them to the outdoors and all the activities that we sponsor and support, then they can visit the outlying parks too,” Stegmann said.

Grimes Farm and Marshall County parks have seen a lot of progress in the last year, but there are still many other projects on the horizon for the conservation board and the FMCC in the near future.


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