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 construction phase map)
Phase III is tentatively expected to reach completion in 2017 dependent upon progress within the larger Easter Lake restoration project. This section of the trail will connect the north and south sides of the lake, will traverse the dam and connect Easter Lake to Ewing Park.
If funding becomes available, Phase IV will consist of connecting Easter Lake Park and the Mark C. Ackelson trail to Indianola Avenue by way of a crushed limestone trail spur.
Polk County Conservation recently acquired an abandoned railway corridor for future trail purposes stretching from Ankeny to Des Moines.
Updated trail and wayfinding signage are in the works.
Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt (click here for master plan document)
The Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt Master Plan has been approved. The Polk County Conservation Board and staff are currently priotizing projects within this document which addresses future planning for this regionally significant conservation area that provides more than 8,000 acres for recreation and wildlife.
Easter Lake Park
Easter Lake Lodge
Amperage Fundraising is working with PCC staff and a Feasibility Steering Committee to complete the Easter Lake Lodge Feasibility Study. The final report will soon be presented to the Polk County Conservation Board.
Easter Lake Watershed Project
(click here for project timeline)
(click here for exhibit map)
A combination of restoration practices is necessary to restore this 178-acre lake and its watershed.
Following the dredging process and 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.
Currently, the lake is being lowered approximately 6" per day and should be completely drained by February of 2017. 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.
For more information on the Easter Lake Watershed Project, please see the Project's Facebook page.
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.
Nature Center (click here for project brochure)
Fundraising to secure the remaining dollars is needed to supplement bond contributions. For more information, please see this brochure and business plan.
Mark your calendars this year to come play with us in support of the Jester Park Nature Center at the Great Outdoors Foundation Buck Naked, Need Dough Annual Dinner on November 11.
Visit the Events tab at www.jesterparknaturecenter.com for further details.
Yellow Banks Park (click here for project flyer)
Staff is currently prioritizing the planning and construction of recreation amenities that will occur in 2016 and beyond. Projects include a fishing jetty and dock that 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. Staff is also analyzing how best to utilize newly aquired properties adjacent to the park.
IV. Water Quality
Polk County Water Quality Monitoring Program Annual Report
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