Conservation

Trails End Wildlife Area

Trails End Wildlife Area

A work in progress, Trails End Wildlife Area Mitigation Bank will provide miles of multi-use trails for walkers, runners, bird watchers, and others looking for respite in the natural world. It also will allow for incredible wildlife-watching opportunities.

The area is currently traversed by two bike trails, the Gay Lea Wilson and the Chichaqua Valley trails with additional trailside amenities under consideration. The area will include a pond/wetland of sufficient depth and size to support a fishery. Several parking lots will be installed, and restroom and picnic facilities are under consideration.

Take a look at what the area might look like upon completion:

Wetland Mitigation Bank, Polk County from JEO Consulting Group on Vimeo.

THE STORY OF TRAILS END WILDLIFE AREA

When 200+ acres of land became available surrounding Mally’s Park near Berwick, Polk County Conservation (PCC) staff were very interested. Mally’s Park had recently received several upgrades, and additional land would provide more opportunities for the public in this area sandwiched between the growing communities of Altoona and Ankeny. In the end, all parties recognized the importance of creating a regional park, and in August 2018, the Trails End
Wildlife Area became a reality. The property also fits perfectly in the recently-created Fourmile Creek Greenway, PCC’s newest park.


Shortly after the completion of these acquisitions, PCC was contacted by JEO Consulting Group in Ankeny. They heard of PCC’s recent acquisitions and knew most of the site was in the Fourmile Creek floodplain, making it a prime site for wetland restoration. JEO also recognized that it was traversed by Fourmile Creek as well as two smaller creeks. These factors all contributed to this being an ideal site for a mitigation bank.


Mitigation banking is a product of the Clean Water Act of 1970. A key feature of this act is its “no net loss of wetands” requirement. Over the years, environmentalists and those opposed to this provision have jousted over the exact definition of a wetland, yet the most important outcome of this act was the concept of wetland mitigation. Moving forward, activities that resulted in the loss of wetlands on the landscape would need to be mitigated or compensated in some way. Currently, the preferred method of wetland mitigation is wetland banking, wherein a private or public entity creates a “bank” by constructing wetlands where there are none currently and sells the wetland “credits”.


Wetland mitigation banks are preferred over other forms of mitigation because they typically create large, high-quality wetland restorations on the landscape that provide the historical benefits of lost wetlands. Trails End Wildlife Area will be the largest permitted wetland bank in Iowa with 54 acres of emergent wetland, 12 acres of forested wetland, and 83 acres of upland buffer totaling 79 available credits. It is unique because it also offers stream mitigation credits (161,476) through remediation on 16,575 feet of on-site creeks, making it the perfect place to obtain credits for any construction activity.


It is important to note PCC did not acquire Trails End Wildlife Area with the intent to sell mitigation credits. We like to say it was a “happy accident” that the potential in this site was recognized and brought to our attention. Our main intent is the creation of a high-quality restoration site that helps realize the mission of PCC. Acquisition and restoration costs for this site – estimated at $6.5 million– will be offset by credit sales, which will also support the overall mission.


As such, the Trails End Wildlife Area Mitigation Bank will provide miles of multi-use trails for walkers, runners, bird watchers, and others looking for respite in the natural world. It also will allow for incredible wildlife-watching opportunities. The area is currently traversed by two bike trails, the Gay Lea Wilson and the Chichaqua Valley Trails with additional trailside amenities under consideration. The area will include a pond/wetland of sufficient depth and size to support a fishery. Several parking lots will be installed, and restroom and picnic facilities are under consideration.


We expect to receive final approval from the Army Corps of Engineers of the banking plan in mid-November, at which time credits will become available for sale. To discuss purchasing wetland credits, contact Doug Romig, Deputy Director of Polk County Conservation, doug.romig@polkcountyiowa.gov, or 515-323-5355.

VIEW MAP

Motorized vehicles are prohibited on all trails within PCCB lands. The only exceptions are for maintenance, law enforcement, and emergency vehicles. This restriction does not apply to a manual-operated or power-driven device designed primarily for use by an individual with a mobility disability, e.g. wheel chair.