*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:
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.
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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