Conrad sworn in as Tama Co. Park Officer
Otter Lake restoration, county ATV ordinance discussed
The monthly meeting of the Tama County Board of Conservation began in a celebratory manner this past Wednesday, June 1, with the official swearing-in of Riley Conrad as a full-time Tama County Park Officer.
Conservation Director Stephen Mayne announced during the regular May meeting that he had hired Conrad, a Keota native, for the position but that he would be unable to begin employment until May 23 in order to graduate from Iowa State University.
Conrad graduated last month from ISU with a B.A. in animal ecology and a minor in agronomy.
He was accompanied to the June 1 ceremony held at Otter Creek Nature Center by his fiancee Lauren Imhoff and his parents Doug and Angela Conrad.
Mayne appointed Conrad to the park officer position effective June 1, 2022, to December 31, 2027.
Following the ceremony, Conrad said it had long been his dream to work in Iowa in conservation “not too far from home,” before adding that the Tama County position “checked all the boxes.”
Plans call for Conrad to attend Iowa Law Enforcement Academy in January of next year.
Conrad joins Director Mayne, naturalist Brendan Kelly, and conservation tech Dustin Horne as full-time Tama County Conservation staff members.
Lake restoration update
Under old business, Mayne provided an update on the Otter Creek lake restoration, telling board members the archeological study had been completed and the permit application submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Rock Island District.
“The Corps … as far as the reviewing of this application … is taking the most priority for this Corps’ district … hopefully we should have an answer here within the next week and a half or so, and then the contractor has the green light to mobilize,” Mayne said.
Mayne said following the opening of Otter Creek’s campground last month, campers were made aware both verbally and through the posting of notices in the park, they will be given 24 hours’ notice to vacate once the mobilization starts.
A question was posed by board member Nathan Wrage regarding the fish habitat structures that remain in the dried-out lakebed – specifically asking what was the plan for those structures. Horne indicated they would be retrieved soon now that the mud isn’t as much of an obstacle. The plan is to store the structures on the bank.
A member of the 2021 Tama County Conservation seasonal staff elected to return for a brief period – roughly three weeks, Mayne said – to provide temporary help under the seasonal ranger intern position. A candidate for the new naturalist intern position has also been hired. Kelly said he would introduce the new naturalist intern to the board during next month’s meeting.
County ATV ordinance
The newly enacted Tama County ordinance regulating the operation of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and off-road utility vehicles (UTVs) – which went into effect on January 1, 2022, and allows for the legal operation of ATVs and UTVs on county roadways – was a topic of discussion under new business.
Currently, no such vehicles are allowed inside any Tama County park unless preauthorized, but several individuals recently attempted to operate such vehicles in Otter Creek Park. Signs have long been posted in county parks prohibiting such actions.
Under Section 4 of the new ordinance which addresses unlawful operations, ATVs and UTVs are not permitted “on public land, ice or snow in violation of official signs prohibiting such operation,” nor allowed “in any park, wildlife area, preserve, refuge or game management area unless permitted by the local governing authority and only then in designated areas.”
ATVs and UTVs are also prohibited by the ordinance in “any portion of a meandered stream or the bed of a non-meandered stream which has been identified as a navigable stream or river by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and is covered by water.”
Park Officer Conrad told the board an individual operating an ATV/UTV in Otter Creek Park recently – in violation of the ordinance – argued with him that “the sheriff says I can go wherever the h*** I want.” Conrad later confirmed with a Sheriff’s deputy that such vehicles are not allowed in Tama County’s parks.
“I think it’s going to be trouble no matter what we do,” board member John Keenan said. “If we allow [ATVs/UTVs in the parks] they’re going to tear the place up — if we don’t allow it, then everybody’s going to be mad.”
Board member Bryan Wacha recommended county conservation keep their signs prohibiting ATVs/UTVs “in good working order” and make no changes to the current regulations. All members of the board were in agreement.
Mayne encouraged Conrad to begin issuing citations to those he encounters in violation, while Wrage suggested they also post the prohibition on the county conservation website and social media channels.
Board meeting date change
Due to continuing difficulties with billing due dates and the time frame under which the county pays its bills, Mayne asked the board to consider changing the date of the regular monthly meeting to avoid being charged interest as interest is not allowed under county policy.
A motion was approved by the board to move the regular monthly meeting of the Tama County Board of Conservation to the third Wednesday of every month beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Otter Creek Nature Center starting in July (July 20) – with one final meeting on the first Wednesday still set to take place on Monday, July 6.