Polk County Conservation

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. 

II. Trails

Mark C. Ackelson Trail
(click here for construction phase map)

Phase III

Phase III is tentatively expected to reach completion in late summer 2018 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 and west bridge crossing. Construction is set to begin in spring of 2018 and scheduled to be completed in fall of 2018, via pedestrian bridge that will traverse the dam and connect Easter Lake to Ewing Park.

Phase IV

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.

Sycamore Trail

Park Amenities 

In partnership with Central Iowa Trail Association (CITA), the installation of updated trailhead amenities and trail signage are in the works along the Johnston trailhead located off of 66th Street. 

III. Parks

Brown's Woods

Park Amenities

Updated trail and wayfinding signage are in the works.

Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt
(click here for master plan document)

Master Plan

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 completed a Feasibility Study for a proposed Easter Lake Lodge. The final report was presented to the Polk County Conservation Board on April 11th. Click here to view a copy of this report.

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.

The dredging at Easter Lake is still in progress. Drawing the lake down revealed a substantial amount of sedimentation that requires further addressing.

In-lake mechanical dredging and shoreline restoration work began in early January 2018 and is anticipated to be completed by the end 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, view the Project's Facebook page and their wesbite

Boat Ramp Improvemment

In conjunction with the Iowa DNR Water Recreation Grant, improvements to the south boat ramp at Easter Lake Park will be made and completed by winter of 2018. 

Four Mile Creek Greenbelt

Watershed Improvements

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. 

Jester Park

Nature Center (click here for project brochure)

Construction for the nature center is currently in progrees. The Jester Park Nature Center Grand Opening is scheduled for August 5th from 1 - 5 PM. View more information online at www.jesterparknaturecenter.com. Preview the brochure and business plan

Golf Course Clubhouse

The clubhouse is under renovations to install a 3-season room, commercial kitchen and cart storage. Improvements scheduled to be completed by late May of 2018.


Irrigation system will be installed throughout the 18 hole course. 

Yellow Banks Park

Site Improvements

Updates at Yellow Banks Park will include entrance aesthetic and way finding improvements, new shelters, boat ramps, parking, and soft trail improvements. Construction began in June of 2017 and will continue through 2018.


The addition of rental cabins will be located at the east addition of Yellow Banks Park overlooking the pond. Cabins are scheduled to be completed by summer of 2018. 

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

Contact Us

Administration Office
12130 NW 128th St
Granger, IA 50109

P: (515) 323-5300
F: (515) 323-5354

Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

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