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Conservation Board opinions differ on conservation efforts

Conservation Board opinions differ on conservation efforts

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At their Sept. 2 meeting, the Fremont County Conservation Board discussed property management, the five-year plan, playground equipment and canoe access points.

Fremont County Supervisor Terry Graham was present at the meeting and responded to a question about the possibility of buyout properties becoming the responsibility of the conservation board. Graham told board members any FEMA buyout properties would be deeded to the county, and would be the responsibility of the conservation board.

Conservation Board Executive Director Doug Weber pointed out the board did not have the money to maintain any more property than they already were.  Member Matt Dollison suggested any such properties could be leased as farmland, but member Bob Geiger suggested some of the properties would be so small they would be hard to farm. Graham said he believed there were some properties that would be a benefit to the conservation board and county.

Dollison wanted a list of the properties that might fall under conservation board care, but Graham said nothing was finalized yet regarding buyouts so he couldn’t provide that. Dollison asked for an unofficial list of the possible properties and wanted to put discussion of what could be done with those properties on the next agenda. Weber suggested that was premature, without an accurate list.

Member Becca Castle asked for discussion of the five year plan again, wanting to go through the plan line by line.  Weber advised her the board had agreed to go through the plan quarterly and it was just discussed at the last meeting.

Castle wanted to know when the plan was put in place and what kind of public participation there had been in its development.  Board Chairperson Sherry Gilbert told Castle the plan was created about nine months ago, and that public participation had been from those people who attended the meeting(s) during its development. Castle and Dollison said there should have been more public participation and suggested future discussion of the plan should be announced to the public on Facebook, so they could get more participation. Weber suggested it was supposed to be the conservation board’s plans. Gilbert agreed she could put notice up on Facebook when the plan would be discussed.

Castle told the rest of the board her research into playground equipment for the roadside campground indicated they would be better off waiting until spring, when they might find sales and more grant opportunities. She suggested the board apply for a Fremont County Community Foundation grant and use that money to match a Wellmark grant, which would require at least a 50% match from the county. Castle said she thought a $35,000 budget would do for playground equipment. Member Bob Geiger said he thought that amount was ridiculous for no more camping spaces than there were in that campground. It was agreed there should be more research into equipment and costs to try to cut costs.

Dollison told the others he had spoken to the Iowa DNR water trails coordinator and been advised there is a grant available for a new water trail each year, and that there was little competition for the grant. Dollison said the grant would pay for almost everything, but it was due in late September, so they were likely getting started too late this year. He added that the guidelines for the grant were very strict, and he believed Mills County had tried for it one year and ended up just paying for everything themselves because they couldn’t meet all the guidelines.

Dollison said Lance Brisbois at Golden Hills RC & D said there should be grants for single access points without such strict guidelines. They reviewed the idea that ideal water trail access points should be within five miles of each other, and talked about Farragut, Riverton and Hamburg access.

Dollison said he didn’t really feel like he was the right person to spearhead this effort, that he didn’t have time to dedicate to it, and that he had hoped to find a community member or avid paddler to champion the cause. Gilbert suggested she could put out word that the board was looking for such a person.

Weber told Dollison he had been asked if Pinky’s Glen was suitable for kayaking and he said as far as he knew. He asked Dollison for a list of possible locations in Fremont County for kayaking/canoeing to use if the question came up again. Dollison suggested Riverton reserve in the spring before the DNR drained it, or Forney Lake if there was enough water in it.

Weber advised the board he had spoken with the contractor that day, and materials were in for the showers in the campground, so that project should be getting started soon.

The board meets next at 5 p.m. on Oct. 7.

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