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Thursday, April 28, 2011

High Trestle Trail - Ribbon Cutting - Ready For Action

Wow! Our new neighbor, the High Trestle Trail, with its amazing half-mile long bridge that is 13 stories high, is even better than people were saying it’s going to be. Dignitaries and the media got a preview of it on Wednesday, and a huge turnout from the public is expected Saturday for the opening “Grand Celebration.”
Board member, RRVT Association

MADRID, Iowa, April 27, 2011 — We’ve now had our first look at the brand new 25-mile-long “High Trestle Trail” and its already-legendary ”Art Bridge” that is a half-mile long and 13 stories high.

It’s as good as they were saying it was going to be. Maybe better.

“This is something I’m going to look forward to, riding my bicycle on this trail and across this bridge,” said Governor Terry Branstad, who reminded the crowd at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, April 27, that he and First Lady Chris Branstad own a home eight miles north of the trail. “And I’m sure my children and grandchildren will want to ride it, too, as well as people coming from across the nation.”

“I love it!” said Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds. “This is another great example of big things happening in small places.”

Governor Terry Branstad, Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation President Mark Ackelson, U.S. Congressman Leonard Boswell and other dignitaries gathered Wednesday, April 27, at the west end of the “Art Bridge” on the brand new High Trestle Trail for a ribbon cutting and formal opening. A “Grand Celebration” of the opening is scheduled in all the towns on Saturday, April 30
“It’s been a $15 million project,” said Mark Ackelson, president of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, which led the development, fundraising and promotion of the new trail. “That’s quite a price. But when you think about all the wonderful experiences that our families, friends and visitors from across the nation are going to have out here, it’s really a priceless project.” He noted that 80 percent of the cost was covered by 18 different public grants.

Congressman Leonard Boswell said he looks forward to riding his bicycle on the trail, too, and he told about how in recent years, he has flown an airplane up the river valley many times to monitor the project. “This is a natural, just what we need,” Boswell said. “People across the United States know Iowa for RAGBRAI, which is tremendous, but I tell people to come to Iowa a week early, or stay afterward, and ride our recreational trails. I see this and it makes me look forward to our next (trail) project. Let’s just keep on going.”

Read the remainder of the article and see some great pictures of the HTT here:

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Input sought on park needs-Pottawattamie County

Three public meetings will be held next week to gather public comment and ideas on parks, recreation and leisure facility needs throughout Pottawattamie County.

Recreation planning consultants from Winston Associates and Ballard-King & Associates will describe their work and invite input from a broad cross-section of county residents. The needs assessment is being funded by the Iowa West Foundation.

The three public meetings are scheduled in Council Bluffs, Carson and Avoca as follows:

  • Monday, April 25, beginning at 7 p.m., at the Lied Center on the campus of Iowa School for the Deaf in Council Bluffs. 
  • Tuesday, April 26, also at 7 p.m., at Carson Community Center in Carson. 
  • Wednesday, April 27, beginning at 5 p.m., at A-H-S-T High School in Avoca.
The public and media are encouraged to attend. Each meeting will last up to two hours. The meetings will feature keypad-voting devices for audience participation.

The study will be further informed by 5,000 mail-back surveys that will soon be mailed to randomly selected residents in the county, in proportion to population of each municipality.

Two weeks following the random survey, the survey will be open online to any county resident. A texting survey for Pottawattamie County youth between 13 and 21 years old is now “live” and can be accessed at (712) 560-9078.

Survey results and other information will be posted online to a dedicated website,, where residents can monitor the progress of the study and post comments.

Consultants are assessing existing assets and future needs in order to offer analysis-based recommendations in regard to what facilities are needed in the county and where those facilities could best serve the residents.

There is also a countywide Recreation Needs Assessment Advisory Group including 27 local representatives from the county.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Devasting Threats to Iowa's Trees and Forests Emerge

By Brian Button - Editor, Iowa Outdoors Magazine

Not since Dutch elm disease are so many threats converging on Iowa's trees. Keep and eye out for these four invasive pests to avoid potential disease, widespread damage and great costs.

Proper woodland and community tree care plays a critical role in creating healthy rural and urban community forests. In 2008, more than 6 million trees died. 


Emerald Ash Borer
Emerald Ash Borer is a small green invasive wood boring beetle that attacks and kills ash trees. The adults live on the outside of ash trees feeding on the leaves during the summer months. The larvae look similar to white grubs and feed on the living plant tissue underneath the bark of ash trees. The trees are killed by the tunneling activity of the larvae under the tree’s bark, which disrupts the vascular flow. EAB is a highly invasive forest pest that has the potential to kill nearly 100% of the native ash trees of any size, age, or stage of health where it is present. Over 50 million ash trees outside of Iowa have been killed where EAB is present. Much of Iowa’s forestland is populated with ash trees, and Iowa’s community street trees are heavily planted with ash cultivars. The US Forest Service 2008 inventory indicates that there are 52 million woodland ash trees and 3.1 million urban ash trees in Iowa. Trees attacked by EAB can die within two years. Once EAB killed trees are discovered in a community nearly all ash trees in that community will be dead in five to six years.

Check out this video about the EAB from Iowa State University extension  

Gypsy Moth
Gypsy Moth is a European insect species introduced in Boston, MA in 1869 as an experiment to help provide silk for the textile industry. This exotic insect continues to spread west from that introduction site and defoliate native forests. Establishment of gypsy moth in Iowa will affect the survival of mature trees. The larvae of this insect will feed on the leaves of over 300 host species during the important summer growing season, a time when a trees leaves are converting sunlight to energy. Repeated defoliation that occurs several years in a row on the same tree will deplete the stored nutrients, leading to the decline of that tree. In 2010, a record number of 2,260 male gypsy moths were captured in 31 Iowa counties.

Bur Oak Blight
Bur oak is common across Iowa. In 2008, bur oak ranked second among all tree species as measured in volume of saw timber on forest land. Bur oak provides substantial value for wood products and is an important source of wildlife habitat and mast (acorns) to many game and nongame species. Bur oak blight is a newly named disease that can cause severe defoliation, leading to mortality of branches or entire trees. Bur oak blight is caused by an un-described species of the fungus Tubakia.  Based on reports of BOB to the Iowa State Plant Insect and Disease Clinic in 2010, 27 counties in Iowa reported the presence of the disease. Within these counties there are over 8.7 million bur oaks out of Iowa’s over 32 million bur oak trees growing. However, the disease has been observed by DNR foresters across the state.

Thousand Cankers Disease of Black Walnuts
Since the 1990’s, black walnut has been dying in Western U.S. The deaths are caused by a walnut twig beetle that carries a fungus which is spread as the beetle tunnels through tree tissues. The insect disease complex had been named Thousand Cankers Disease (TCD). The introduction of TCD into Iowa would have disastrous effects economically to the wood industry in the state and the rest of the nation. Iowa has the third largest volume (979 million board feet) of saw log size black walnut in the world. Some experts believe that TCD has the potential to decimate black walnut in the same way Dutch elm disease, emerald ash borer and chestnut blight have destroyed their respective hosts.

Help Lessen an Outbreak
1) For woodlands, keep an appropriate number of trees per acre and maintain species diversity as the best insurance against native and exotic invasive tree threats.

2) Watch for signs and symptoms of the big four pests. If you see issues, contact a district forester. Have digital photos of suspect trees ready to help determine if an on-the-ground inspection is warrented.

3) Take care of your woods. Follow written management plans developed by a professional forester. Maintain proper spacing, stocking and tree diversity. Overstocked, overgrazed and under managed woods are more susceptible to all pests.

4) Cities should inventory their tree resources and work to create a diverse community forest containing no more than 10 percent of any one species.

5) Do not transport firewood, untreated wood products or wood waste. Movement aids spread of destructive pests. For campfires, use wood purchased at the park.

6) Get involved. Advocate protection and care of rural and city tree resources. learn more about tree diseases at or contact the IDNR's forest health coordinator, Tivon Feeley at 515-281-4915.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Busy Weekend - a few events of Interest

Friends of Iowa State Parks Summit on April 9 

The Iowa Parks Foundation and IDNR's State Parks Bureau invite you to attend the first Friends of Iowa State Parks Summit

April 9, 2011
10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Izaak Walton League
4343 George Flagg Parkway
Des Moines, Iowa 50321

The purpose of this meeting is to provide a forum for Friends of Iowa State Parks groups to come together and share their plans, projects, challenges and celebrate successes. This exchange will help to inspire all the Parks Friends Groups to find new methods to achieve our common goals. By working in a more collaborative manner we will be able to accomplish more for our great parks.

Display tables will be provided for groups to ‘show-off’ plans, projects and progress they have realized in your park.

Prairie Chicken Festival at Kellerton on April 9

There will be a Prairie Chicken Festival at Kellerton prairie chicken viewing site from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 9.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has been actively managing the southern Iowa grassland landscape for this charismatic species for many years. The improvements are benefitting other species like northern harriers, short eared owls, pheasants, upland sandpipers, eastern and western meadowlarks and others. Breeding bird surveys indicate that grassland habitat is sorely lacking for many grassland nesting birds.

There will be a prairie chicken feature on Outdoor Iowa on IPTV on Thursday, April 7 at 6:30 p.m.

Peregrine Falcon Event at McGregor on April 9

Peregrine falcon enthusiasts are invited to see and hear a nesting pair at Bunge Elevator in McGregor, on Saturday, April 9 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This pair is one of the 16 nesting pairs that have established territories around the state.

It is particularly enjoyable to hear the falcon's courtship calls this time of year as this species recovers from the brink of extinction, said Pat Schlarbaum, wildlife diversity technician with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Experts will be on hand with information and spotting scopes during the event. Parking is available west of the elevator and a trail provides access to a public overlook of the Mississippi River where falcons can be viewed.

A web camera will be trained on these falcons when birds initiate nesting in the near future.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Iowa Outdoors Episode # 3

On Thursday, April 7 at 6:30 p.m., IPTV viewers across the state can enjoy the third episode of Iowa Outdoors, a television series focusing on outdoor recreation, environmental issues, conservation initiatives, and Iowa’s outdoor natural resources.

The spring episode takes viewers 100 feet underground into Coldwater Cave in northeast Iowa to explore Iowa’s longest and most spectacular cave. Viewers will also have the opportunity to witness the population rebound of prairie chickens in southern Iowa during this episode. Iowa Outdoors also visits Wapsipinicon State Park and profiles the paintings of Iowa native Maynard Reece, a living legend in the field of wildlife art.

Following the April 7 premiere, viewers can see the third episode again April 9 at 8 a.m. April 14 at 8:30 p.m., and April 17 at 12:30 p.m. For a complete program schedule and to view complete episodes, visit