Polk County Conservation

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Nature Center Ground Breaking Set for March 29

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Jester Park Nature Center ground breaking has been set for Wednesday, March 29 at 1:30 p.m. at the future site of the building. Brief remarks, followed by an informal celebration with refreshments and activities will be taking place that afternoon. The public is invited to attend.

For more information about the Jester Park Nature Center visit www.jesterparknaturecenter.com

Polk County Water Quality Monitoring Annual Report Released

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Polk County Water and Land Legacy bond referendum (passed in 2012) has provided us with the necessary funding to undertake many significant water quality improvement projects since its inception.

In part, this bond has allowed Polk County Conservation to start a water monitoring program to help assess watershed quality in Polk County. The first year of monitoring took place from October 1, 2015 - September 30, 2016. Regular monitoring should be able to detect changes to water quality in the future.

Below are links to the condensed and full versions of these annual reports.

Polk County Water Quality Monitoring Program Annual Report- Condensed

Polk County Water Quality Monitoring Program Annual Report- Full Version 

Winter Ice Safety

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

With the recent fluctuating temperatures, ice conditions are not safe. Learn how to be safe on the ice with these safety tips:

  • There is no such thing as 100 percent safe ice.
  • New ice is usually stronger than old ice. 
  • Ice fishing is a social activity, don’t go out alone. If the worst should happen, someone would be there to call for help or to rescue.
  • There could be pockets of thin ice or places where ice recently formed, so check ice thickness as you go out.
  • Avoid off-colored snow or ice. It is usually a sign of weakness.
  • The insulating effect of snow slows down the freezing process.
  • Schools of fish or flocks of waterfowl can also adversely affect the relative safety of ice.

Easter Lake Drained, Restoration to Begin Spring 2017

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

As planned and on schedule, Polk County Conservation in conjunction with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Polk Soil and Water Conservation District, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the City of Des Moines are moving forward with the next phase of the Easter Lake Watershed Plan that was developed in 2012. Successful completion of the wet dredging process in 2016, which removed hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of silt from the lake, allowed for ideal timing and conditions for the draining of Easter Lake. The lake was drained to fulfill many goals and objectives associated with the overall plan which includes the following:

  • Improve fisheries, fisheries habitat, and water quality.
  • Expose the shoreline so we can accurately evaluate public access improvements and in-lake plant life enhancements for wildlife.
  • Dry out the lake bottom so some additional mechanical dredging and shoreline work can begin in the spring of 2017.
  • Improve dam safety by installing another gate valve that will ensure safe and operative future lake level management.
  • Enhance boat ramp access for watercraft recreation interests.
  • Provide safe, non-motorized trail access around the lake by completing the Mark C. Ackelson Trail which will connect Easter Lake to Ewing Park.
  • Remove the lake from the state's impaired waters list through the execution of an extensive, multi-year watershed restoration plan.

The main gate valve in Easter Lake was fully opened in January so in-lake restoration work can begin this spring. The majority of fish in the lake exited through the gate valve and were sent downstream into the Des Moines River. We did experience some fish loss, but we took the necessary steps to minimize this by promoting relaxed fishing regulations in 2016 and working closely with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Bureau.

Park users and neighbors can expect slight musky odor at times, but this will be minimal. Park shelters will be first-come, first-served in 2017- no reservations will be accepted. The swimming beach and boat ramp will be closed. In-lake mechanical dredging and shoreline restoration work will begin in the spring and continue through the winter and final trail construction should be completed by the end of 2017. All major improvements are expected to conclude by March of 2018 upon which time the lake will begin filling back up and fisheries will be restocked.

Questions about this project can be directed to Loren Lown, Polk County Conservation Parks and Natural Areas Planner, at 515-323-5364 or loren.lown@polkcountyiowa.gov.

Connecting Individuals to the Outdoors Program Now Enrolling Participants

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Iowa State Chapter of National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) recently created and implemented a program called Connecting Individuals to the Outdoors to reverse the decline in hunting participation across the state.  The yearlong program is designed to create a community and support group where individuals, ages 18-45, can engage with and learn from experienced hunting mentors in a low-stress environment.

January 21, 2017, kicks off the 2nd annual Connecting Individuals to the Outdoors Program. The partners are currently recruiting 15-20 participants to join the community of individuals that have a passion for the outdoors.  Skill-building clinics, range days and hunts will be held in and around the Polk County area.

The outline of the program begins in January with an introduction to hunter education, firearm safety, introduction to wildlife and habitats, scouting tips, what to do when a participant harvests an animal and wild-game cooking. By mid-spring, participants are ready for their first turkey hunt. As the program continues, participants are exposed to a wider variety of outdoor activities – fishing, outdoor survival skills and upland, small game and waterfowl hunting. The program also provides an insight into the essential hunting gear and clothing items participants need on introductory hunts. Each participant will be paired with a certified mentor to provide support during these activities. 

Participants applying for this program will need to complete online hunter education and be committed to attending clinics and outdoor activities for three to four hours a month for 11 consecutive months.  There will be a small registration fee of $135.00 that will cover required licenses and a membership to the NWTF.

We are also seeking mentors, both male and female, that are willing to help teach and guide participants through the program. Mentors should be a minimum age of 21 and free of any criminal record. Background checks will be conducted for all mentors.

To submit applications (no later than Feb 25) and/or to learn more about the program, contact Dan Fitzgerald, NWTF Save the Hunt Coordinator for Polk County at fitzgeralddar@hotmail.com or 515-864-8235.

Click here for the participant application.

Click here for the mentor application.

Click here for 2017 curriculum and tentative schedule.

“To ensure the future of hunting and outdoor sports, we need to educate future generations about what it means to be a hunter and a conservationist” - Stacey Sipe Smith, NWTF Save the Hunt Coordinator for Iowa.

The Latest Nature News Is Now Available

Monday, November 21, 2016

The newest edition of Polk County Conservation's Nature News is now available. Keep up-to-date on what is going on in our family of parks and trails as well as what events are taking place from January through April 2017 by clicking here.

We Need Your Support for the Jester Park Nature Center!

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Jester Park Nature Center will serve as one of Iowa's leading nature centers as well as a gateway to experience our state's natural environment. It will serve as a focal point within our community where recreation, education, tourism, and conservation efforts all intersect into one goal - to protect, preserve, and promote the landscape in which we live, work, and play.

The nature center is one of the centerpiece projects funded by the Polk County Water and Land Legacy bond referendum which was approved in 2012 by a 72% majority of voters. It is a $10 million dollar project that has $5 million dollars in bond proceeds allocated. Grants and fundraising from corporations, individuals, and foundations will make up the balance of the funding required.

Located within the very popular Jester Park, the nature center will be just inside a new park entrance on the west side off NW 128th St. The site is on a restored prairie and wetland, overlooks mature woodland and the newly renovated Discovery Pond, and is connected to the nearby Saylorville Reservoir. A comprehensive nature trail system will connect the center to nearby popular attractions such as rental cabins, picnic shelters, bird blind, elk and bison exhibit, and a natural playscape. The building will offer many lessons in sustainable construction.

The two floors of the nature center have complementary but different design approaches. The upper level will be social and relaxed, with opportunities to display local art and areas of natural resources interpretation. The lower level will be more kid-focused, with exciting hands-on interactive displays including a live animal exhibit area.

The Outdoor Recreation & Wellness Center will sit adjacent to the nature center, providing a regional hub for public education in outdoor skills and wellness, outdoor physical activities for schools, and collaborations between organizations with shared goals for public health.

Fundraising efforts for this public/private partnership project are in full force through the end of 2016 to secure the remaining dollars needed to bring this project to reality. Project construction will begin in early 2017. The Grand Opening of the Jester Park Nature Center is anticipated for Earth Day 2018.

To stay on top of the latest information and to become part of this landmark opportunity in our community, make this project your own by visiting www.jesterparknaturecenter.com. Support the Jester Park Nature Center today!

Relaxed Fishing Regulations Begin at Easter Lake on June 1st.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources will relax fishing regulations at Easter Lake in Polk County starting on June 1st, 2016, to allow anglers to more freely harvest game fish before the lake is renovated in 2017.

Anglers with a valid fishing license will be allowed to harvest any size or number of largemouth bass, channel catfish, and all other fish species from Easter Lake. Any number of fishing poles or jug fishing will be allowed. Anglers must remain in sight of these lines at all times, and follow all other fishing regulations and area rules. Trot lines will be allowed (name and address must be attached), however lines may not be set across the entire water body. It is illegal to sell fish or stock captured fish into public waters. Please note that due to the dredging pipe and dredge being in the lake, Polk County Conservation will not allow any boating activities on the lake during this project.

Plans to eliminate undesirable fish species, such as gizzard shad and common carp are part of a plan to further improve the lake’s water quality and recreational opportunities.

Liberalized fishing regulations for Easter Lake will remain in effect from June 1st, 2016 through June 1st, 2017. Specific regulation changes include:

•    Removal of bag and length limit restrictions on largemouth bass.

•    Removal of bag limit on walleye.

•    Removal of bag limit on channel catfish.

•    Removal of bag limit on crappie and bluegill.   

•    Removal of the two line/two hook fishing restriction, however anglers must still adhere to the being within visual sight of the lines.

It is very important that anglers never transport and release common carp or any fish species into any water body. Gizzard shad and common carp populations in Easter Lake have reduced game fish populations, decreased water quality and limited fishing activity. All lake water from live wells and bait buckets must be drained before you leave the boat ramp.

For more information contact Iowa DNR Fisheries Biologist Ben Dodd at 641-891-3795.

Contact Us

Administration Office
11407 NW Jester Park Drive
Granger, IA 50109

P: (515) 323-5300
F: (515) 323-5354

Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

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