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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The National Parks: America's Best Idea - Presentation

Indianola native Dayton Duncan will discuss and screen part of his new project "The National Parks: America's Best Idea," which he produced with Ken Burns. The documentary premieres nationally on Sept. 27.

WHEN and WHERE: 3 and 7 p.m. Friday at Simpson College's Lekberg Hall in Indianola...
7 p.m. Saturday at Iowa Western Community College's Looft Hall in Council Bluffs


BONUS: An earlier Duncan/Burns project, "Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery," airs at 3 p.m. Sunday on Iowa Public Television.


Dayton Duncan, an Indianola, Iowa native, will visit Indianola on Friday and Council Bluffs on Saturday to talk about the filming process - all six years, 800 rolls of film and 50 interviews of it. He'll talk about how the show, like earlier projects with Burns ("The Civil War," "Baseball" and "Jazz"), explores the big sweep of history and draws parallels with today.

Duncan's research also casts new light on some of the parks' unsung heroes, including the late U.S. Rep. John Lacey, an eight-term Republican from Oskaloosa. He authored bills around the turn of the last century that protected park animals from poaching and gave presidents the authority to set aside new areas for historic and scientific reasons.

Theodore Roosevelt used Lacey's Antiquities Act of 1906 to protect Devils Tower and the Grand Canyon, and President Carter used it to save wildlife in Alaska. Most recently, President George W. Bush used the law to preserve Hawaii's northwestern islands.

The Antiquities Act "really is the greatest tool for conservation in history," Duncan said. "As a fellow Iowan, I'm particularly proud to give John F. Lacey the credit he's due."The filmmaker hopes the series will renew enthusiasm for the "uniquely American" idea of the national parks.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

We're working vigorously to beautify where we live

April 26, 2009

We're working vigorously to beautify where we live

Former Iowa Governor

All of us tend to form our opinions of people and places based on the first visual image. This need to make a favorable first impression is essential in building local pride and in the encouragement of economic development.

The "good news" is that Iowans are putting forth a renewed effort at improving the image of where they live - and they are doing it with vigor and enthusiasm. The following are a few local examples:
- Neighborhood organizations in Des Moines are invigorated and building a great sense of pride.
- Beautification efforts are along Ingersoll Avenue.

- Landscape planters are throughout the downtown area of Des Moines.
- Beautification efforts along Fleur Drive are significant.
- Cleanup efforts by the downtown partners business area keep the area clean and free of cigarette butts.
- New signage for the city center aids residents and visitors to finding their way around Des Moines and for parking.
- Revitalization efforts are under way in the East Village area.
- Improvements have enhanced the Des Moines River Principal Riverwalk area.
- Changes and improvements to Gray's Lake have been made.
- Attractive landscaping of I-235 and changes in the appearances of bridges and overpasses are being implemented.
- Millions of dollars of improvements to the state Capitol and the landscape around the Capitol are being made.
- Expansion and interconnection of trails with neighborhoods, communities and the countryside is occurring throughout Iowa.
- More residents are participating in spring housecleaning programs by using free disposal days offered by communities.
- Hanging flower baskets and flowering areas are increasing in local communities.

The work of Character Counts! has also spread into hundreds of communities and schools throughout our state, helping Iowans become the best that they can be. This reputation of a quality people is one that Iowa has and will continue to have.

The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation has worked to protect thousands of acres of natural lands and has encouraged recreational trail development.

The newly formed Iowa Parks Foundation is focusing on enhancing and restoring quality to our significant park areas throughout Iowa.

The county conservation boards in this state are little known or recognized, yet they are one of the most significant assets of Iowa - providing dozens of nature centers for Iowans and visitors to enjoy along with hundreds of significant park, recreation, river access sites and wildlife areas. River and community cleanups are improving the appearance of areas across the state.

Keep Iowa Beautiful is helping to encourage and support statewide, regional and community enhancement efforts throughout Iowa. The newly developed 1-888-NOLITTR (665-4887) number allows Iowans to help stop littering by reporting those they see littering from a vehicle.

As all of us improve or enhance the beauty and cleanliness of the areas around us, other things begin to happen.Pride increases in the residents, business owners and visitors. Improvements begin to show up on adjacent private properties and values increase - it becomes contagious.

The "good news" story in Iowa is amazing and it is spreading rapidly - join the effort!

Robert D. Ray was the governor of Iowa from 1969 to 1983.

Copyright ©2009 The Des Moines Register

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Spring is Here - Check Out These Beautiful Parks

These three State Parks are among the dozens of natural spaces in Iowa that offer great opportunities for camping, fishing, hiking and mushroom picking during the spring season.

Pine Lake State Park - Located in Hardin County in north-central Iowa

Pine Lake State Park provides a pleasing mix of woodland, river and lake in the midst of rolling farmland. The 650-acre park encompasses two lakes: 50-acre Lower Pine Lake and 69-acre Upper Pine Lake. Of special appeal to nature enthusiasts are the ancient white pine, the white-barked birch trees and rare ferns found along the Iowa River.

A renovated 124-site campground includes facilities usually available around mid-April. Four rustic stone and timber cabins, nestled along the Iowa River, are available year-round. Reservations are accepted for both camping and cabins.

Fishing opportunities at the lakes and river provide the angler a chance at bass, crappie, northern pike, and channel catfish. Boat ramps and more than seven miles of well-developed trails are available around the lakes. There is also a 2.5-miles concrete bike path that runs from the welcome center in Eldora along both lakes in the park to near County Highway S56. Wildlife watching and mushroom hunting are two favorite activities in the spring. For further information on the park, call 641-858-5832.

Lake Ahquabi State Park - Located just south of Indianola and the Des Moines metro area

Lake Ahquabi State Park provides a variety of recreational opportunities. The 770-acre park is very popular with anglers, offering opportunities for crappie, bluegill, redear, sunfish and bass. Facilities include numerous jetties for shoreline fishing, two boat ramps, and a covered ADA fishing pier, which provides an excellent opportunity for all visitors to enjoy fishing no matter what time of year. A renovated 142-site campground includes facilities usually available around mid-April. Reservations are accepted. The park offers 8 miles of trails for hiking. Wildlife watching and mushroom hunting are favorite spring activities. For more information, contact the park at 515-961-7101.

Lake of Three Fires State Park - Located in Taylor County in southwest Iowa

Lake of Three Fires State Park is popular in the spring for visitors interested in picnicking, fishing, hiking, nature photography, or harvesting mushrooms, berries and nuts. The park includes 8 miles of trails for hiking and horseback riding and includes two campgrounds, both located a shore distance from the lake. The 23-site equestrian campground and the 98-site non-equestrian campground both have facilities that are available usually around mid-April. The park also features six modern family cabins available year-round. Reservations are accepted for both camping and cabins.

The 85-acre Lake of Three Fires is nearly a mile long and a half-mile wide, with scenic inlets ideal for fishing and boating. Surrounding the lake are 691 acres of picturesque woodlands. For more information, contact the park at 712-523-2700.

Other parks in Iowa that you might want to consider for a springtime visit include: Ledges State Park (central Iowa), Red Haw State Park (south-central Iowa), Pikes Peak State Park (northeast Iowa) and Lake Wapello (southeast Iowa).

Saturday, April 18, 2009

DNR to Unveil River Trash Sculpture on Earth Day

Talkin' Trash - DNR to Unveil River Trash Sculpture on Earth Day

What was once an eyesore is now becoming an object of beauty. Trash dredged from the Winnebago, Shell Rock and Cedar rivers last August by hundreds of volunteers on the DNR's annual Project AWARE river cleanup event will be celebrated on Earth Day - not as trash, but as art.
On April 22, the public is invited to view the sculpture from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the main lobby atrium of the Wallace State Office Building, 502 East 9th Street, in Des Moines. Artist David Williamson and DNR staff will be available to greet visitors, answer questions, and most importantly, gather public input to complete the project.
Rather than a finished piece, the unveiling will reveal a sculpture-in-progress, and public input is requested to complete the final transformation of the trash into finished sculpture. As a collaborative effort amongst cleanup volunteers, everyday citizens, and artist David Williamson, more public input is needed before this metamorphosis can be complete.
"Due to the collaborative nature of this project, we encourage visitors to join us on Earth Day to add their thoughts," Williamson said. "With the sculpture about 60 percent complete, this is a great opportunity to welcome public input and the exchange of ideas that are so crucial to this type of project."
As part of a multi-year project known as The River Gates of Project AWARE, the sculpture is not only an interpretive piece that honors the work of volunteers, promotes environmental stewardship, and tells the story of Project AWARE, but it has also been designed for use as a security gate for the DNR building at the Iowa State Fair.
Along with the sculpture, music created through a similar collaborative effort will also be performed, and sculptures from previous years of Project AWARE will be on display.
For more information, please visit or contact Brian Soenen at or (515) 205-8587.