Camping update, new naturalist top agenda at Conservation meeting

Lake restoration continues

The hill that once housed Otter Creek Park’s beachfront campsites pictured on May 3. Recent lake restoration work at the park led to the necessary elimination of the campsites. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

TOLEDO – As the lake restoration project nears its final stages at Otter Creek Lake and Park, amenities including the campgrounds, playground, and parking are undergoing updates of their own, according to Conservation Director Stephen Mayne.

During the monthly meeting of the Tama Co. Board of Conservation held on May 3, six members of the public were present in an effort, they explained, to learn more about when the campgrounds at Otter Creek would be reopening in light of the looming Memorial Day weekend.

Mayne explained that after speaking with both the Iowa DNR and its subcontractor Rachel Construction, it is believed the project will wrap up by July 4. No camping will be allowed and the park will remain closed to the public until at least that time assuming the weather cooperates.

Currently, the bulk of the restoration work is taking place on the roadways in and around the park campsites and on the dam located in the northwest corner of the park.

“The original contract was set for June of this year to be completed,” Mayne explained to the members of the public present. “But with the delays [due to permitting] … that got extended.”

The final piece of the lake restoration project puzzle, the northwest dam pictured on May 3. Work on the lake including the dam is expected to wrap around July 4. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

Seeding was set to start that week, Mayne further said, as well as work at Camper’s Hill to elevate the six pads, upgrade the electrical, and run water to each site.

A member of the public asked at one point during the meeting if “everything” remaining closed included the hiking trails to which Mayne responded, “yes,” before elaborating that several individuals had been attempting to hike and/or operate UTVs in the closed park – without permission – as of late and had “almost been run over by dump trucks.”

The lake itself should begin to fill back up slowly in about a month and a half. The lake will be restocked with panfish later this year once enough of a pool has returned, while walleye won’t make a return – on the county’s dime – until next year at the earliest.

Under new business, Mayne again returned to the topic of camping at Otter Creek.

Due to a necessary change in grading on the slope that previously housed the beachfront campsites, camping is no longer possible in that area, Mayne said. Between the expansion of the campsites at Camper’s Hill to accommodate larger, modern RVs and the loss at the beach, the park will lose 12 campsites total once the project finishes.

The playground area at Otter Creek Lake and Park in rural Toledo pictured on Wednesday, May 3. In addition to new playground equipment, the playground will soon have an adjacent parking lot – making for a much safer play space. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

But from that loss, parking will now be possible near the playground and on the same side of the road leading to a much safer play space.

New naturalist

At the beginning of the meeting, Mayne introduced the county’s new, recently hired naturalist to the board.

Raina Genaw began work as Tama County Naturalist that past Monday having graduated from Drake University last May. She previously worked for the Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources for two years as an interpreter. Most recently she has been working as a preschool teacher.

While Genaw is from Maquoketa, she now resides in Marshalltown.

Tama County Conservation’s most recent hire, Naturalist Raina Genaw, pictured on Wednesday, May 3, at Otter Creek Lake and Park Nature Center. Genaw replaces Naturalist Emma Bruck who resigned in March. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

Other business

-The board approved the purchase of a new, 18-foot utility trailer for $5,855 from Patten Equipment in Urbana.

-As part of the Director’s report, Mayne congratulated Park Officer Riley Conrad on his April graduation from the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy.

-Park technician/ranger Dustin Horne recently coordinated the largest controlled burn Conservation has conducted at one time to date, according to Mayne. Approximately 50 acres were burned.

-Four seasonal staffers have been hired for the summer including Merritt Bodeker, Arlo Cibula, Trevor G., and Josie Wacha.

Tama County Park Officer Riley Conrad pictured following his graduation from Iowa Law Enforcement Academy this past April. PHOTO COURTESY STEPHEN MAYNE

-A quote from CiNTAS to purchase various first aid supplies was tabled until next month in order for Mayne to learn more about ongoing costs charged by the company.

-Brief discussion took place regarding the nature center’s parking lot and the need to increase parking in order to meet building occupancy standards. No action was taken.