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 III is tentatively expected to begin 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.
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)
The final touches are being added to Brown's Woods. Updated trail and wayfinding signage is anticipated by Spring 2016.
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
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)
(click here for exhibit map)
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. Restoration work has begun. The public beach and boat ramp will be closed during the 2016 and 2017 recreation season for safety precautions.
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)
Recreation and Trail Improvements
Redevelopment of Fort Des Moines Park continues. Work began on the south side of the park to convert the area in between the park and Studebaker Elementary into an outdoor classroom complete with nature trails, gathering areas, interpretive signage and prairie establishment. Additional proposed improvements in the works include new shelters, flush restrooms, peninsula trail/boardwalk/shade structures, improved trail system and bridges, boat ramp and fishing access. Click here for detailed information regarding these upcoming park enhancements.
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)
Plans and designs for the Jester Park Nature Center continue. For more information, please see this brochure and business plan. 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 2016.
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.