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That’s a Wrap! Road and Parking Construction is Complete at Hitchcock

Visitors to Hitchcock Nature Center now have additional parking options and can more safely navigate through the park, enhancing their experience and protecting the park’s rare Loess soil and ecosystems.

*Pottawattamie Conservation took special care to minimize construction disturbance by redesigning and repurposing already developed areas.

 

 

Several updates to parking areas and roads were made to provide a safer, more efficient experience for visitors while better protecting natural areas. Please see a list of updates below:

  • There are 40 total new parking spaces near the Moonseed and Boardwalk trailheads and expanded overflow lot, as well as ADA-compliant parking near the Loess Hills Lodge.
  • Roads are widened in several areas for safer two-way travel.
  • The widened main park entrance now allows for two-way travel in and out of the park.
  • There are now two main entrance lanes and a total of four entrance fee pay stations.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, visitors flocked to Hitchcock like never before as they looked for safe ways to get out of the house, move around and connect.

It seems John Muir hit the nail on the head when he wrote, “The mountains are calling and I must go.” People sought refuge as the world slowed down and the impacts of COVID-19 unfolded, and nature (whether it be the mountains or the Loess Hills found at Hitchcock) answered their call.

But with a 500% increase in visitors over the past 10 years and especially high traffic during the pandemic, wear and tear was put on infrastructure and roadways, unique ecosystems and the area’s delicate soil. Loess soil found at Hitchcock and along the western edge of Iowa was formed by glaciers and wind that blew dust and silt into high dunes during the last ice age, which ended about 12,000 years ago.

Loess accumulates into tall hills like those at Hitchcock in just two places in the world - southwestern Iowa where Hitchcock Nature Center is located and along the Yellow River in China. The hills at Hitchcock also harbor some of the largest remaining prairie remnants in Iowa, providing refuge for plants and animals found nowhere else in the state.

Across the US, only 4% of remnant, or true native prairie, remains. While it’s estimated that 80% of Iowa used to be covered in prairie, today less than 0.1% of remnant prairie remains.

At Pottawattamie Conservation, we knew that parking and road updates were necessary in order to protect this precious natural resource. 

“As conservationists and public servants, it’s our job to ensure that the public can experience the Loess Hills in a way that balances the needs of our guests with the needs of this incredible natural resource.” Pottawattamie Conservation Deputy Director Jeff Franco said. “This project improves the safety and efficiency of our park while minimizing impacts on the land and creates a better visitor experience for our guests today, tomorrow and for the generations to come.”

Whether you are looking to hike, explore or learn more about the Loess Hills and creatures that call this area home, Hitchcock Nature Center is here for you (now with more parking!).

 

 

Park improvements were made possible with generous support from: Audubon Society of Omaha, CMET, Gilchrist Foundation, Hitchcock Foundation, Iowa West Foundation, Kiewit Foundation, LHMRR Parks to People, Pottawattamie Conservation Foundation, Pottawattamie County Board of Supervisors, Pottawattamie County Conservation Board and Union Pacific Foundation.

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