Category Archives: Parks

Be Safe & Cool Camping this Labor Day Weekend!

It’s Labor Day weekend and a popular weekend for camping!  With heat indexes in the 100s the staff at Linn County Conservation offers some tips to make your camping experience a positive one!

  • Be alert to weather conditions. Heat will remain high through Monday and there is a chance of thunderstorms on Sunday.  Be prepared for the high temps throughout the weekend. 
  • Select a campsite that offers plenty of shade if possible. If there is no natural shade available, try creating some shade using a tarp.
  • Drink plenty of water. Remember caffeine and alcohol can worsen dehydration conditions.  To stay well hydrated, water is your best choice.
  • Keep your food safely stored in a cooler or secured area outside of your tent.  If food needs to be kept cool, a cooler will help prevent spoiling. With this heat, you will need to check the ice levels often! Keeping food secured will make it harder to critters to disturb! (One cooler for drinks and a separate cooler will food will be best so there is not a constant opening/closing of your food cooler.
  • Wear sunscreen and sunglasses. Even on an overcast day, you can get a sunburn!  Protect your skin and eyes from UV rays.
  • If there is water nearby, many people will want to cool off in the water. Please be careful around water. Everyone should know how to swim and have a life jacket on or nearby.
  • At the peak point of heat during the day, consider visiting Wickiup Hill.  You’ll have an opportunity to experience nature, but it will be cool and air-conditioned inside!
  • Take fans if you have an electric site.
  • Dress cool by wearing light colors, water wicking clothes.  wear loose, light-colored, cotton clothing and a wide-brimmed hat that will shade your face. It will also help to lay a cloth soaked in cold water over your head before putting on the hat. Re-wet the cloth any time it warms up.

Here are some non-weather related camping tips:

  • When going for hikes on trails, use the buddy system.  Take a friend with you and be sure to tell others where you are going.
  • Be cautious and considerate about building a fire. Don’t build a fire near tents or other flammable items. Don’t leave a fire unattended and make sure it is extinguished if you decide to depart.
  • Be responsible for young children in your party.  They too want to have fun, so make sure their environment is safe – don’t run out in front of vehicles, don’t talk to strangers and be extra careful around fire and water.
  • Keep all pets on leashes at all times.
  • Wear insect repellent and check yourself for ticks! If you find a tick on you, simply brush it off with your fingers.
  • Keep any valuables out of sight and in a locked area.
  • Follow park rules and regulations.  You can find these posted at the registration booth at each campground.

 If you have any concerns about campground safety, please contact the campground host or park staff immediately

New Trail Completed in Central City

The Linn County Conservation Board is excited to announce the opening of a new trail connecting Pinicon Ridge Park to Central City.  The trail is part of an extensive trail network in the park and crosses under Highway 13 into Central City.  The City of Central City has been working on developing their end of the trail for the past several years.

The trail is paved through Central City and asphalting of the trail in Pinicon Ridge Park will be completed August 1st.   There will be some minor edging and sealing work that will follow once the asphalting is complete.  The trail is expected to open to the public in the next few days.

Ticks Don’t Have to Stop Your Summer Fun

ticksIt’s summer! Time for camping, hiking and getting outside to play. Don’t let those pesky annoying ticks stop you. Here’s how with a simple homemade solution!

Repellent for your pets:

For pets, add 1 cup of water to a spray bottle, followed by 2 cups of distilled white vinegar. Ticks hate the smell and taste of vinegar, and will be easily be repelled by this ingredient alone. Then, add two spoonfuls of vegetable or almond oil, which both contain sulfur (another natural tick repellent).

To make a repellent that will also deter fleas, mix in a few spoonfuls of lemon juice, citrus oil, or peppermint oil, any of which will repel ticks and fleas while also creating a nicely scented repellent. Spray onto the pet’s dry coat, staying away from sensitive areas including eyes, nose, mouth, and genitals. When outdoors for an extended period, spray this solution on two to three times per day.

For you and your family:

In a spray bottle, mix 2 cups of distilled white vinegar and 1 cup of water. To make a scented solution so you do not smell like bitter vinegar all day, add 20 drops of your favorite essential oil.

Eucalyptus oil is a calm, soothing scent that also works as a tick repellent, while peppermint and citrus oils give off a strong crisp scent that also repel ticks.

After mixing the solution, spray onto clothing, skin, and hair before going outdoors. Reapply every four hours to keep ticks at bay, and examine your skin and hair when back inside to make sure no ticks are on the body.

Matsell Pistol Range Orientation

The Linn County Conservation Department will host an additional Matsell Bridge Pistol Range orientation.  Typically, these orientation sessions are hosted by the Linn County Pistol Club the first Saturday of every month between April and October.  However, with the increased interest in the pistol range and trying to better accommodate interested attendees, the Conservation Department will host its own orientation.

The orientation is scheduled for Monday, June 10th at 7:30 PM at the Matsell Bridge Shooting Range.  Similar to the orientation held by the Linn County Pistol Club, no reservation is required.  The orientation will last approximately 30 minutes and all attendees will be issued an orientation certificate that must be on their person at all times when shooting in the 50-yard range.

Happy Camping!

It’s Memorial Day weekend and a popular weekend for camping!  Campsites with  amenities such as electricity fill up fast.  In the Linn County Park system, there are a handful of electric sites left.  If you are looking for a more primitive camping experience, there are many sites available.  For camping availability, click here.

To help make your Memorial Day weekend a great camping experience, here are some safety tips to remember:

  • Keep your food safely stored in a cooler or secured area outside of your tent.  If food needs to be kept cool, a cooler will help prevent spoiling. Keeping food secured will make it harder to critters to disturb!
  • Wear insect repellent and check yourself for ticks! If you find a tick on you, simply brush it off with your fingers.
  • Wear sunscreen and sunglasses. Even on an overcast day, you can get a sunburn!  Protect your skin and eyes from UV rays.
  • Be careful around water. Everyone should know how to swim and have a life jacket on or nearby.
  • Be alert to weather conditions. Have and know your action plan in the case of severe weather.
  • When going for hikes on trails, use the buddy system.  Take a friend with you and be sure to tell others where you are going.
  • Be cautious and considerate about building a fire. Don’t build a fire near tents or other flammable items. Don’t leave a fire unattended and make sure it is extinguished if you decide to depart.
  • Be responsible for young children in your party.  They too want to have fun, so make sure their environment is safe – don’t run out in front of vehicles, don’t talk to strangers and be extra careful around fire and water.
  • Keep all pets on leashes at all times.
  • Keep any valuables out of sight and in a locked area.
  • Follow park rules and regulations.  You can find these posted at the registration booth at each campground.

 If you have any concerns about campground safety, please contact the campground host or park staff immediately!

North Cedar Natural Area Is Open

North Cedar Natural Area is now open after recent flooding.

North Cedar Natural Area

North Cedar Natural Area is currently closed due to flooding.

Cedar Valley Trail Update

The Linn County Conservation Board signed an easement agreement with ITC Midwest for nearly 2 miles of the Cedar Valley Trail from Robins Road to County Home Road.  ITC began working in December and finished their transmission work on April 30, 2013.

Linn County Conservation staff met with ITC staff to evaluate the condition of the trail and determined the following:

The Cedar Valley Trail (from Robins Road to County Home Road) will remain closed until May 10th. During this time ITC will work on cleaning the trails and safety repairs that are necessary prior to opening.

On Friday, May 10th, the trail will open for evening and weekend use until May 24th. ITC will continue to work Monday-Friday during the day during this time to remove the old poles and finish any minor cleaning. The trail must remain closed while ITC is working for safety precautions.

The trail is expected to open for normal trail hours beginning on May 24th.

Due to the heavy equipment on the trail, some resurfacing work will need to be complete.  This work will be scheduled for fall of 2013.  Once the Linn County Conservation Department knows more information about the resurfacing, information will be made available.  During the resurfacing period, the trail will be closed for a few weeks.

Run the Ripple 5k Run/Walk

Be a pebble, join the ripple, have some fun!

5k run/walk for the Millhiser Smith Foundation & McDonough Family.

Thank you West Bend for being the platinum sponsor!

Sunday May 19th, 2013

9AM Squaw Creek Park, Red Cedar Lodge (Marion)

Packet Pickup and late registration May 17th at Millhiser Smith Agency from 3-6PM, 3100 Oakland Rd NE Cedar Rapids.

Register online at www.getmeregistered.com/runtheripple 

Questions? Email msfoundation@millhisersmith.com or find Run the Ripple on facebook.

 

Campground Status & Camping Availability

Campground Season Opening

It has finally arrived…somewhat!  Linn County Conservation is ready to open the campgrounds for camping season.  However, due to the ground conditions and cool temperatures, the facilities will not be fully operational this weekend.  Please see the updates below for camping availability in each park.  We hope to have water turned on in the parks next week and be fully operational by April 9th.  Please watch for additional information.

Pinicon Ridge:
Most campsites will be open on Friday, April 12th (for exceptions, see the list below).  However, there will be NO water to individual sites or the dump stations.  There will be water available at the shower house.

The following will remain closed due to saturated, soft ground:
Flying Squirrel A Loop lower sites will remain closed until further notice.
Flying Squirrel B Loop will remain closed until further notice.
Plains will remain closed until further notice.

Squaw Creek: 
A Loop and B Loop will open on Friday, April 12th.  However, there will be NO water to individual sites or the dump stations.  There will be water available at the shower house.

Morgan Creek:
Morgan Creek campgrounds will open on Friday, April 12th. However, there will be NO water to individual sites, the dump stations, or the shower house.

Wakpicada: 
Remains closed until further notice.

Buffalo Creek:
Will open early next week.

Matsell Bridge Natural Area: 
The equestrian campground is open but the gate to the primitive camping area will be closed until road conditions firm up and water levels recede. No water is available yet.

 

 

 

‘PARTNERING’ ANOTHER THEME FOR CP HISTORICAL SOCIETY, 2013

‘PARTNERING’ ANOTHER THEME FOR CP HISTORICAL SOCIETY, 2013

The Center Point Historical Society chose the Civil War as their museum and activity theme for 2013 but at its regular March meeting “partnering” turned out to run a close second.

Melissa Atkinson, city clerk, and Carrie Wilkinson of Center Point Economic Development attended the meeting.  The Historical Society, at Melissa’s invitation, will be providing photographs and artifacts from the Museum collection for rotating displays at City Hall.

Carrie invited the Museum to participate in a Cedar Valley Nature Trail special bike ride, Saturday, May 4, celebrating the reopening of the LaPorte City trail bridge which was destroyed in the 2008 flood.  The group voted to have the Depot Museum open from 8 to 10 a.m. and from 2 to 4 p.m. that day of the Bridge to Bridge ride, which is being sponsored by LaPorte City.

Historical Society members also finalized plans for this year’s County Historic Preservation grant application.   The Society plans to partner with the Linn County Conservation Department on fire and security protection for the Depot Museum building.  The Conservation Department owns the 1914 Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern electric railroad depot in which houses the Historical Society museum.

The March meeting wasn’t all work—the group played with the newly restored 1923 player piano, too.  The player piano was restored with the help of last year’s grant from the Linn County Historic Preservation Commission and Linn County Supervisors.  The Museum’s grand opening of the year will be Sunday, May 5, from 2 to 4, with a Player Piano Party.

The Historical Society will have special workdays each Saturday in April from 9 to noon for Museum spring cleaning and display set up.  (There will undoubtedly be frequent breaks for playing that fun piano, too.)

Historical Society meetings are 7 p.m. the last Tuesday of the month at the Depot Museum.

Why Do We Burn Prairie?

By: Dana A. Kellogg
Natural Resource Specialist

This spring if you take a trip to one of your favorite county parks or natural areas you are likely to see evidence that a fire has taken place in a grassy area.  This is likely not an accident, but a planned controlled prairie burn.  Fire is an extremely beneficial tool in the sustainability and management of a prairie.  Having evolved under the influence of fire for thousands of years, prairies respond favorably to controlled fires.  It has been well documented that Native Americans used fire extensively to improve game habitat, increase nut and berry production, and create easier traveling.

Fire rejuvenates a prairie in many ways.  Burning removes the excess leaf litter and duff allowing more plants to flower, produce seed, and grow taller.  It also increases available nutrients through indirect stimulation of microbial activity in the soil and releasing nutrients from the ash.  Burning exposes the darkened soil and allows sunlight to warm the soil quicker and extend the growing season for warm season native plants. In contrast the fire suppresses many weeds and non native invasive cool season grass like brome and reeds canary grass. Fire also damages or kills many woody invasive plants such as bush honey suckle and autumn olive, which, if left unchecked can quickly over take a prairie.  Controlled burning is one of several management tools used to preserve prairie. Mowing, hand cutting, and chemical treatments are some others.  However, burning allows large areas to be managed more efficiently and effectively.  Generally, controlled burns are conducted on a 2 to 4 year rotation, with a portion of the prairie remaining unburned to   allow for an escape area for wildlife and insects.

Prior to Euro-American settlement, 85% of Iowa, nearly 30 million acres was prairie.  In 1837 John Deere invented the steel moldboard plow. This new technology made some of the most fertile ground in the world farmable.  It also marked the end of the prairie as 30 million acres of prairie was converted to farm land in less than 80 years. Today, less than 0.1 % of the original Iowa prairie remains. A few gems of prairie still exist in Linn County Conservation areas, and we try our best to preserve them for all to enjoy.

So the next time you see that black patch in the park, try to forget the old add campaign featuring Smokey the Bear. That taught us all so well, fire is bad.  Not all fire is bad; in fact some fire is essential.  Come back to that black spot in a week or two and see how beautifully green it becomes.  Come back through out the growing season and see the wildlife, insects, and prairie bloom.

Matsell Bridge Shooting Range Update

Improvement Updates for the 100-Yard Range 

The Linn County Conservation Board recently applied for a grant to help support the costs related to the improvements of the Matsell Bridge Shooting Range.  Unfortunately, the grant was not awarded to Linn County.

The Department continues to move forward with design and engineering plans.  The timeline for reopening the 100 yard range is dependent upon design plan completion, estimated costs, construction, and weather – and subject to funding availability.  The Department is currently evaluating proposed rules and regulations.  All information will be presented to the Conservation Board for approval.

Status of the 50-Yard Pistol Range 

The 50-yard pistol range is open daily to the public.  It is open only to those people who have been through the orientation class put on by the Linn County Pistol Club and issued an identification badge by the club.  Users must have the identification badge with them while shooting.

The Linn County Pistol Club will be offering orientation sessions again starting on April 6th.  Orientations sessions are offered the first Saturday of each month April through October starting at 9:00 AM.  Orientation takes approximately one hour.  There is no registration required.

Campground Host Wanted!

Linn County Conservation currently has a campground host position available at Morgan Creek Park.  This volunteer opportunity plays an important role at the Morgan Creek Campground.  Below is a brief description.  If you are interested in this opportunity, please complete a volunteer application.
General Description:
Campground hosts provide light duty cleaning maintenance and routine customer services for the public. In return the Linn County Conservation Department willprovide free camping at a designated campsite.
Responsibilities:
- The shower house will be thoroughly cleaned oncedaily and checked for problems twice daily
- Clean/scrub toilets, urinals, sinks and mirrors daily
- Refill empty toilet paper dispensers daily and refill soap dispensers, as needed
- Pick up litter inside showerhouse and around the building exterior daily
- Sweep, mop or hose off, squeegee floors and clean/scrub shower stalls daily
- Report damage, plumbing problems, burned out lights, etc. to park staff asap
- Sweep and hose off porch, empty refuse containers and replace can liners, as needed
- Provide information and assist the public by answering questions or handing out brochures,trail maps, etc. If questions cannot be answered,refer to park staff.
- Sell firewood and discount camping coupon booklets and write receipts.
- Listen to public comments and advise staff for any actual or potential problems.
- Restock camping envelopes at registration booth brochure box.
- Park staff will be notified immediately of problems in the campground, rules and regulations violations, campsite disputes, accidents or other emergencies.
- Daily litter patrol of vacant campsites and common areas.
- Remove vacant campsite registration tags.
- Advise staff of damage or unsafe conditions.
- Some light campground maintenance may be performed that is mutually agreed upon between the host and park staff.
Age Requirements:
Must be 18 years old or older
General Requirements:
- Complete training before beginning Host duties
- Read and understand LCCB Rules and Regulations
- Document services performed on Department forms
- Sign an agreement with the Linn County Conservation Department including a “hold harmless”clause
- A background check will be required for this position
Scheduling:
A normal presence is required in the park during the week and especially on the
weekends. If the host is going to be absent for an extended period, park staff will be informed prior.
Special Notes:
Resource Manager, Steve Swenson, and Assistant Resource Manager, Shaun
Reilly, will be your primary supervisors. ResourceTechnicians, Gary Novotny, Dawn Zimpferand Jared Van Hamme may also supervise your position. The department will provide cleaning supplies, equipment and training for necessary tasks. Appropriate safety equipment will also be provided. This IS NOT a law enforcement position.

Buffalo Creek Park

canoersBuffalo Creek is located just to the west of Coggon off of County Road D-62 and is divided by the Buffalo Creek.  This 128 acre county park offers a multitude of things to do.  The park was the first park to be developed by the County Conservation Board and was mostly developed by 1962.  The park is open year round but closed to vehicles from late October through early April.

The park has one of the earliest concrete “low-head” dams constructed in the state of Iowa.  There is a unique walkway over the top of the dam that takes you into the east side of the park.  The dam was completed in 1965 and is located next to the railroad tracks off of Mill Street in the city of Coggon.  Fishermen enjoy catching bait below the spillway of the dam and may even catch an occasional crappie, bluegill, smallmouth or largemouth bass.  The impoundment was originally developed for recreational pursuits but has dramatically silted over the past 50 years.  However, it is still used for kayaking and canoeing and it is a favorite refuge spot for waterfowl.  Just past the walkway over the dam you will find a walnut tree plantation the Conservation Department planted and still maintains today.  The rest of the east area is maintained as wildlife habitat refuge.spillway and bridge

Following the dam completion, “Walnut Grove Campground” was developed and completed by the fall of 1966.  Originally, there were 30 campsites nestled along the Buffalo Creek.  Due to consistent flash flooding in recent years the number of campsites has been reduced to 13.  The majority of the sites are now protected when flooding does occur.  The campsites have had new electrical and water upgrades in the last decade and now offer 50-amp electrical service and water hook-ups and cost $18.00 per night.  Each site contains a fire ring and picnic table.  The campground is self-registration and on a first-come first-served basis.  There is also a sanitary dumping station located near the entrance of the park and firewood is also available for sale next to the registration kiosk.

There are many things for campers to do while staying at Buffalo Creek Park.  The park offers a newly renovated horseshoe court, a playground for kids, prairie and woodland hiking trails and there are several geocaches placed through the park for those who are enjoying the new sport of geocaching (you can find the geocache locations by visiting Geocaching.com).

shelterThe park also provides Hickory Hill Shelter, an open area reservable shelter located near the southwest corner of the park.  Celebrating its 50th year, the shelter is still popular for family reunions or other events and can accommodate from 50 to 150 people depending upon weather conditions.  It has electrical outlets, pedestal cooking grills, 14 picnic tables and chlorinated water.  A pit-vault restroom is located near the shelter as well.  The shelter is also on a first come-first served basis unless it is reserved for the day.  Reservations can be made up to two years in advance and cost $30 per day to rent (weekends) and $20 per day (weekdays).  Reservations can be made by visiting our website LinnCountyParks.com.  The shelter is reservable from April 15th through October 15th.  A native oak/hickory tree mix and savannah are adjacent to the shelter offering plenty of shade and a great place to gather hickory nuts in the fall (hence the name Hickory Hill Shelter!).  There are also scattered picnic areas offering tables and cooking grills located near the shelter and plenty of parking is available.

One of the true hidden gems is found on the north side of the park.  Next to campground, you will find a walk through gate that leads you on another hiking trail and pet exercise area.  Along this trail you will find one of the best areas in the state to view Virginia Bluebells in the spring.  The forest floor literally turns a purplish-blue when the native flowers are blooming.  Past the beds of bluebells you will find several backwater areas and notice some of the 200+ wood duck nesting boxes the Conservation Department maintains.  You can usually hear the distinct cry of the wood duck as you spook them while on a leisurely hike along the trail.  Between the male wood ducks and Virginia Bluebells you will find an appreciation for nature at its finest in this quiet little park.blue bells at buffalo creek park

Future plans for the park may involve a trail connecting the City of Coggon to the park, campground expansions and other amenities including a small shower facility and shelter renovation.

In 2012, the Coggon Area Betterment Association, the Coggon Lion’s Club and the Linn County Conservation Department held the first annual “Buffalo Creek Trail Day” at the park.  The event included a kayak/canoe race, live music, food vendors, geocaching seminar, naturalist guided hike and many other games and things to do.  The purpose was to promote a future trail connection between the city of Coggon and the county park.  The event is being planned again for this coming August (watch the Linn Newsletter for more information coming about the event).

If you’re looking for a quiet park with many recreational opportunities then please check out Buffalo Creek Park.  You’ll probably leave the area thinking, “that is a little hidden gem”!

Aaron Batchelder
Wapsipinicon District Park Ranger

Wakpicada

Wakpicada County Park, near Central City in northeast Linn County is closed starting March 11 through approximately April 11th.  The park is closed due to weather conditions.

Cross Country Ski Trail Updates

The Linn County Conservation Department is working to groom cross country ski trails.  As of Friday, February 1st at 3:30pm, the status of grooming procedures are:

Squaw Creek Park: grooming complete (snow is sparse on the trails, campground loop is best)

Matsell Bridge Natural Area: trails have been rolled, grooming expected to take place on Saturday, February 2nd (due to blowing snow, grass is showing in some areas, but snow is very deep in other areas)

Pinicon Ridge Park: grooming is expected on Saturday, February 2nd

Morgan Creek Park: grooming is expected on Saturday, February 2nd

Wickiup Hill Learning Center: grooming is expected on Saturday, February 2nd

Seasonal Job Opportunities

NOTIFICATION OF JOB OPENING IN LINN COUNTY:   APPLY ONLINE AT WWW.LINNCOUNTY.ORG OR CALL 892-5120.

The Linn County Conservation Department has temporary (full-time) openings available for the 2013 warm recreation season. Positions are available in a variety of locations throughout the county. Applications should be completed online at www.linncounty.org (job openings). Applications will be accepted February 3 through February 13, 2013.

Rates of pay and a brief overview of duties are as follows:

PARK ATTENDANT – $10.25 – $10.75/hour – 6 positions available
Duties include: Campground management; registering campers; some rule enforcement; interaction with park visitors; cleaning facilities; mowing; trail patrol and fee collection; and other general park maintenance activities. Must pass a County physical examination which includes a drug test after offer of hire. Non-standard work week – weekends and holidays may be required.

WATERCRAFT CONCESSION MANAGER – $10.25 – $10.75/hr. 2 positions available
Duties include: Coordination and management of canoe and paddleboat concession and canoe trip operation; maintenance of equipment, facilities and vehicles; interaction with park visitors as a park information center; special commercial driver’s license required prior to start of season. Assists with park maintenance as needed. Must pass a County physical examination – which includes a drug test after offer of hire, with random testing as determined by the County. Non-standard work week – weekend and holiday work required.

NATURAL RESOURCE AIDE – $9.25 – $9.75/hour – 8 positions available
Duties include: General park maintenance activities such as mowing, facility and area clean-up and painting; interaction with park visitors; maintenance of park facilities and minor equipment maintenance. Must pass a County physical examination which includes a drug test after offer of hire. Non-standard work week – weekends and holidays may be required.

NATURAL RESOURCE AIDE (Part-time Center Point and Wickiup Hill) –
$9.25 – $9.75/hour – 2 positions available
Duties include: Primary responsibility is opening and closing park facilities.  Person is responsible for minor maintenance and cleaning duties as well. One hour per day.
Non-standard work week - weekends and holidays may be required.

Applications must be completed online through the Linn County Human Resources Department at www.linncounty.org (Job Openings)

Cross Country Ski Update

The following Linn County Parks have been groomed from cross country skiing:

- Matsell Bridge Natural Area
- Pinicon Ridge Park (area near campground has little snow coverage)
- Squaw Creek Park (some areas did not have enough snow to be groomed, so those parts are rolled)
- Morgan Creek Park
- Wickiup Hill (watch for low hanging tree limbs covered in snow and ice)