Dennis Parker Retires as PCC Director
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Polk County Conservation Board, at their August 20, 2014, board meeting approved the retirement request of Director, Dennis Parker. Mr. Parker has been the Director of Polk County Conservation since May of 2009, when he came home to Iowa after spending 25 years in northern Minnesota working for the U.S. Forest Service.
Dennis's contributions and achievements during his five years with Polk County Conservation were substantial. One of Dennis's first tasks upon being hired was to follow through with organization and construction of the High Trestle Trail project. Upon successful completion of this very popular trail system, Dennis moved on to other significant trail connections that enhanced the Gay Lea Wilson Trail, Chichaqua Valley Trail, and the Mark C. Ackelson Trail around Easter Lake.
A proponent of community collaborations such as trails, Mr. Parker was also engaged and encouraging of many regional initiatives such as Capital Crossroads and The Tomorrow Plan. He helped foster growth of the Great Outdoors Foundation and spearheaded master planning efforts for many of Polk County Conservation's major parks.
These planning efforts laid the groundwork that led to the public patronage and passage of the 2012 Polk County Water and Land Legacy bond referendum. This historic conservation bond measure was supported by 72% of Polk County residents and ensures that $50 million dollars will be spent over the next 20 years for the purposes of funding park and trail improvements, land acquisition, and water quality projects. Within two short years of the bond passage more than 600 acres of land has been protected, and water quality/watershed improvements are in progress at Easter Lake, Fort Des Moines Park, Thomas Mitchell Park, Four Mile Creek Greenbelt, and Yellow Banks Park. Along with the trail projects mentioned above, Dennis can also be credited for opening Polk County's first public rental cabins in addition to many other park improvement projects.
Perhaps the most significant project taking shape right now is the impending arrival of the Jester Park Conservation Center. Mr. Parker's leadership on behalf of this exciting regional facility will help reshape environmental education and provide a discovery portal where people of all ages can actively experience Iowa's natural heritage.
Projects, such as the Conservation Center, will continue to move forward. Richard Leopold, Deputy Director, will become the Interim Director while the Conservation Board makes decisions on future leadership. Mr. Leopold has been with Polk County Conservation since the spring of 2013. Prior to his employment with Polk County, he was the Director at Dickinson County Conservation, Assistant Regional Director for Science Applications within the Midwest Region of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Those wishing to thank Mr. Parker for his many valuable contributions, congratulate him on his retirement, or wish him well in his future endeavors are encouraged to mail notes and letters to:
Polk County Conservation
c/o Dennis Parker Retirement
11407 NW Jester Park Drive
Granger, IA 50109