Current Project Updates
I. Land Acquisition and Natural Area Restoration
Polk County is the most developed county in Iowa. A lot of pressure is placed on our scarce natural areas as population increases and wildlife habitat decreases. Recently completed master plans for each park have identified potential areas for acquisition to provide buffer areas adjacent to the parks, protect natural areas, or to support planned park improvements. Conservation staff will work with partners and landowners to acquire priority properties or easements to support restoring these areas to functional wetlands, prairies and woodlands that will benefit wildlife, flood control, water quality and outdoor recreation.
Natural area restoration efforts will be primarily directed towards oxbow restoration at Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt (CBG) and invasive species removal and woodland/prairie planting projects at CBG, Yellow Banks, Easter Lake, and Fort Des Moines parks.
Please see Completed Projects for a list of recently acquired properties.
Mark C. Ackelson Trail (click here for project flyer)
Phase II of the circumferential trail around Easter Lake Park and through Ewing Park will encompass approximately 1.75 miles of paved trail construction on the north side of Easter Lake from Ewing Park to Evergreen Ave. This section of trail will provide for safe trail use off the park road and improved trail access to adjacent neighborhoods. Completion of this project is expected by early summer 2015.
Phase III is tentatively expected to begin in 2017 dependent upon progress within the larger Easter Lake restoration project.
Polk County Conservation recently acquired an abandoned railway corridor for future trail purposes stretching from Ankeny to Des Moines.
Brown's Woods (click here for project flyer)
Park enhancements including new restroom facilities, a drinking fountain, and native plant landscaping near the new park access is anticipated by spring 2015.
Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt
Recent review of the effort to create a Master Plan for Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt revealed a need to take a few steps back and have further conversation. Anything worth doing is worth an extra season of care. This plan is critical for the future of one of Iowa’s most impressive natural areas, and it is imperative that it is done correctly. Due to other pressing commitments, Polk County Conservation has postponed this work. Please check back for further updates as tentative plans to resume discussions later this year are in the works.
Easter Lake Park
Easter Lake Lodge
Preliminary planning for a lodge at Easter Lake Park is taking place. This facility will be used for public event rental and year-round environmental education programming.
Easter Lake Watershed Project (click here for project timeline)
A combination of restoration practices is necessary to restore this 178-acre lake and its watershed. Planned measures include stream bank stabilization, promoting the use of no or low phosphorus fertilizer, storm water management, in-lake sediment detention basins, dredging existing storm water detention basins and portions of the lake, fish population renovation and improvement, invasive species control, and improvements to public access. Preliminary planning and design for this restoration is currently taking place.
For more information on the Easter Lake Watershed Project, please see the Project's Facebook page.
Fort Des Moines Park (click here for project flyer)
Fish stocking is now in progress as lake levels naturally rise following restoration of the pond. Fishing will reopen June 1, 2015 when the fishery is restored.
Recreation and Trail Improvements
Design work continues on peninsula improvements and for the trail that will eventually circle the pond. Work will continue on an outdoor classroom located on the south side of the park adjacent to Studebaker Elementary.
Four Mile Creek Greenbelt
Stream and trail stabilization at Four Mile Creek Greenbelt between Ankeny and Des Moines on county-owned land within the Four Mile Creek Watershed will continue along crucial areas adjacent to the Gay Lea Wilson trail. These projects will reduce the erosion, improve water quality, and protect existing wildlife habitat and infrastructure within the greenbelt.
Conservation Center (click here for project flyer)
Plans and designs for the Jester Park Conservation Center have been finalized. For more information, please see this brochure and our Vision and Themes leaflet. Site preparation, including roadwork, grading, and rocking has been completed. In an effort to look for outside funding to supplement bond dollars to make this project a success, a third party fundraising assessment will be implemented. This assessment will help secure remaining funds as well as outline a plan of action throughout 2015. Click here to view sponsorship opportunities associated with the Center.
Yellow Banks Park (click here for project flyer)
Construction of some recreation amenities will take place in 2015 & 2016. A fishing jetty and dock will provide anglers better access to the pond. Trail expansion will also assist anglers trying to find a more secluded spot to cast their lines. On top of the dam, park visitors will enjoy an open gathering area with a fire pit, shade structures, a new restroom, and improved parking lot.