Otter Creek Lake restoration project takes off

T. F. Clark Park to remain open through winter

Contractors with Rachel Construction work to dredge the lakebed at Otter Creek Lake in late October. PHOTO COURTESY OF TAMA COUNTY CONSERVATION

The November meeting of the Tama County Board of Conservation featured more good news in regard to the ongoing Otter Creek Lake Restoration project – a project that began over a year ago and is finally full steam ahead.

“As you can see, a lot happened since the last time you all were out here,” Conservation director Stephen Mayne told the board.

After arriving back on site in mid-October, Mayne said Rachel Construction went to work shortly thereafter on the project.

Prior to the board’s Nov. 17 meeting, dredging of the lakebed – removing sediment from the lake’s bottom – had started.

Mayne said restoration work was at least a month and a half ahead of schedule, but was slowing down due to how “soupy” the area was becoming. Contractors would need to wait for a freeze before they could begin working on shoreline restoration.

The southeast portion of Otter Creek Lake pictured in late October following the mobilization of Rachel Construction. PHOTO COURTESY OF TAMA COUNTY CONSERVATION

Otter Creek Lake and Park remains closed to the public.

T. F. Clark Park to remain open

In light of Otter Creek Park being closed during the winter months this year – as it was last winter as well – Mayne proposed keeping T. F. Clark Park open through the winter for tent camping, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and hiking.

T. F. Clark Park is a 79 acre county park located northeast of Traer in Buckingham Township. Prior to 1960, the park’s original 24 acres were managed by the State of Iowa as a small state park.

In order to keep the park open through the winter, Mayne asked the board to approve allowing conservation technician Dustin Horne – who lives closest to the park among Conservation’s staff – to drive a park truck home some nights during the week in order to check on the park the following morning, plow if necessary, and collect garbage.

Work has begun on the Otter Creek Lake Restoration project. PHOTO COURTESY OF TAMA COUNTY CONSERVATION

Board member Carolyn Adolphs voiced her support for the idea, telling board members the park’s level trails would make for a good place to cross country ski or walk to which fellow board member Nathan Wrage questioned whether it would be worth the additional cost for what he felt would be very few people camping in the park.

Wrage also worried that having the gates open could possibly open the park up to wildlife poaching during Iowa’s winter deer seasons.

Board member Bryan Wacha – also in support of the idea – thought opening the park this winter would be a good way to “guinea pig” the idea, telling Wrage there would be “a fair amount of savings” from not plowing at Otter Creek Park.

Wacha said that “if there’s only five people in [T. F. Clark Park] the whole time,” the board could elect to discontinue the practice next winter.

Mayne said ideally he would like Horne to visit the park at least twice a week. The possibility of asking the Iowa Dept. of Transportation to place a traffic counter near the park entrance to monitor the number of visitors over the winter was also discussed.

“It gives [the public] another avenue to get outside and do some things on county property,” Wacha further said. “If no one uses it, [we won’t open the park] next year.”

A motion was made by Adolphs to allow Horne to drive a park truck home in order to keep T.F. Clark Park open this winter. Board member John Keenan seconded the motion. The motion passed 3-2 with Adolphs, Keenan, and Wacha voting in favor – Wrage and board member Allan Atchison voting against.

Electricity will remain on at T.F. Clark Park this winter for tent camping but water has been shut off. No hunting or trapping is allowed in the park. The gates will be open.

December meeting

Following a brief move this fall to the third Wednesday of the month, meetings of the Tama Co. Board of Conservation will resume taking place on the first Wednesday of the month beginning in December.

The next board meeting is set for Wednesday, December 7, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Otter Creek Lake and Park Nature Center in rural Toledo.