Honey Creek, IA: Pottawattamie County Conservation is proud to announce the receipt of $450,000 from Iowa’s Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program which will be used to pay taxpayers back for the 2022 purchase of 93 acres directly adjacent to Hitchcock Nature Center.
The $1.175 million plot was sold to the county by the Ferguson family as a bequest of Doris Ferguson who passed away last year. Her final wish was “to provide land for other people to use, to be in a natural setting, like it was back in early history, a landscape I fell in love with when we moved from Brooklyn, NY in the 1960s.”
The grant, combined with substantial donations from the Pottawattamie Conservation Foundation and the Hitchcock Foundation, covers a majority of the purchase.
“Whenever possible, the conservation department seeks out grants to fund recreational land purchases and ease or eliminate the taxpayer burden on residents,” Pottawattamie County Conservation Executive Director Mark Shoemaker said. “Despite being the second largest county in Iowa, half of the other 98 counties in the state manage more public land. We have a long way to go in properly serving our constituency and are extremely thankful for REAP and the powerful role it plays in helping preserve public land for future generations.”
The 93-acre addition is part of a long-term plan to protect the unique and rare Loess Hills landform in Pottawattamie County and expand Hitchcock Nature Center. The REAP program has been instrumental in establishing the county park as a regional leader in low-impact recreation and land management with grant dollars supporting land acquisitions in 1992, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2003, 2007, 2010, and 2011. Since the county purchased Hitchcock Nature Center in 1991, more than $2.8 million REAP dollars have supported land acquisitions to expand the park, all of which were from willing landowners who saw the value in making their property available for public use.
Regional REAP assemblies are held every two years and provide an opportunity for the public to learn more about funding plans in their area and share ideas for how the program, which is funded through Iowa gaming receipts and from the sale of the natural resource license plate, can improve their community.
The next REAP Assembly for Pottawattamie, Harrison, Shelby, and Cass County citizens will be held on Thursday, October 26th from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at Willow Lake Nature Center at 2725 Easton Trail in Woodbine, Iowa. Those unable to attend can send their ideas and questions to Iowa Department of Natural Resources REAP Coordinator Michelle Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The new addition to Hitchcock Nature Center includes remnant prairie, of which less than 0.1% remains in the state of Iowa, and contains 20 species on the Iowa Species of Greatest Conservation Need list. Last winter conservation staff converted row crop on the property to a prairie reconstruction which will be accessible for public recreation in Spring 2024.
About Pottawattamie Conservation: Pottawattamie Conservation promotes an appreciation for Iowa's unique natural areas through year-round environmental education programming, natural resource management, habitat restoration, as well as many recreational activities at six county parks. Whether you enjoy hiking, camping, fishing, or just want to learn something new, Pottawattamie Conservation offers exceptional opportunities to experience and explore the outdoors. www.pottconservation.com
About REAP: REAP (Resource Enhancement and Protection) is a program in the State of Iowa that invests in, as its name implies, the enhancement and protection of the state's natural and cultural resources. REAP provides money for projects through state agency budgets or in the form of grants. Several aspects of REAP also encourage private contributions that help accomplish program objectives. REAP is funded from the state's Environment First Fund (Iowa gaming receipts) and from the sale of the natural resource license plate. The program is authorized to receive $20 million per year until 2026, but the state legislature sets the amount of REAP funding every year. This year REAP was appropriated $12 million. https://www.iowadnr.gov/conservation/reap
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