Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Health, Wellness and Quality of Life Outdoors at the Jester Park Nature Center

Beep, beep, beep, beep.
It's 6:00 a.m. on a Monday. 
Time to start the week. 

Whether you're a student rushing to squeeze in an extra hour of studying before class after a late night in the library; a parent rushing to get children awake, dressed and excited for the school day; or a vital cog in the work machine that is the corporate and small business world, you are no stranger to the daily stresses and obligations of this modern world.

Now, more than ever, the restorative powers of nature are not ones to overlook. The average American lifestyle does not allow much for the natural and necessary slowdown crucial to optimal health and wellness. Immersion in the natural world provides a passive process by which simply being present provides immense benefits to one's overall well-being. The Jester Park Nature Center will provide a haven for respite from this fast-paced world in which we reside.

The nature center will serve as an outdoor recreation hub where both education and access intersect resulting in a myriad of available activities that include hiking, birding, canoeing, geocaching, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, fishing, camping and more. Whether you’re a seasoned outdoorsperson or simply have an interest in getting more active outdoors, think of the Jester Park Nature Center as the launchpad into all your adventures in the natural world.

This center will also embrace the opportunity to partner with local health care agencies and initiatives to improve our state's overall heath and well-being. Polk County Conservation and UnityPoint Health - Des Moines have been partnering for years to encourage people to Do More Outdoors.

The physical and mental health benefits people derive from being outdoors is significant. Educating the public about outdoor health and recreation will be enhanced greatly because of the Jester Park Nature Center.  -  Joseph F. Corfits, Jr., CFO, UnityPoint Health.

It is vital to provide a gathering a place - a starting point if you will - for residents and visitors to begin their outdoor adventures and path to health. Accessibility is the key component in this recipe for wellness and the Jester Park Nature Center will fill that current gap in Polk County. Access to the tools and knowledge, as well as the inspiration to get outside and into nature, is what the Jester Park Nature Center will bring to central Iowa. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Economic Vitality and Communal Wellbeing at the Jester Park Nature Center

Rear view of the Jester Park Nature Center

In partnership with the Great Outdoors Foundation and the Greater Des Moines Partnership, Polk County Conservation is proud to announce a boon to Iowa's economy through the Jester Park Nature Center project. This project, in the final stage of its capital campaign, will be a key attraction in Central Iowa's 'year-round playground' destination at Jester Park. 

Jester Park Nature Center will serve as a place where education, recreation and tourism intersect into one setting. This opportunity will provide exceptional value to this region by serving as a significant tourist attraction and welcome center, portal to Polk County's family of parks and Jester Park's new front porch. Tourists, students, educators, families, and others will connect through this center to the natural playscape and bison/elk exhibit, restored woodlands, Saylorville Lake and a network of nature trails immersing visitors back into nature. 

The bison/elk exhibit at Jester Park immerses visitors in the native Iowa landscape

Outdoor nature-based recreation has become one of the largest industries in Iowa with our natural areas as vital components of the economy. Businesses benefit from accessible quality parks, trails, and outdoor recreation available for their employees with potential employees and entrepreneurs basing job choices on available outdoor opportunities. It was also found from survey conducted by the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau that 62% of visitor respondents marked Outdoor Activities and Parks as a preferred interest. 

Visitors and residents of Polk County can fulfill that need to seek and commune with the natural world and begin their outdoor adventures right here in central Iowa at the Jester Park Nature Center. With a population that is expected to grow by as much as 50% within the next 35 years, development of a facility that will provide people with immersion into wild places and grant unparalleled opportunities for all who visit this portal to the outdoors is key not only to healthy minds and bodies but also to a robust economy. This center will impose a positive influence on the surrounding community. Property values increase in the vicinity of nature centers. Employment is provided. The center will become a place of value for local businesses and residential neighbors through the provision of overall wellness and outdoor opportunities. The Jester Park Nature Center will provide entertainment through education and recreation to locals while attracting visitors to the area who will then frequent other surrounding businesses. Thriving individuals foster a thriving local economy and the Jester Park Nature Center will be at the forefront of these endeavors.  

Join us on Thursday, April 21st at 4:00 p.m. for the Jester Park Nature Center public announcement at the downtown offices of the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Hosted by Polk County Conservation, the Great Outdoors Foundation, and the Jester Park Nature Center Leadership Team, the launch announcement will include remarks from the planning team who will give an overview of the nature center's design and expected groundbreaking date as well as opportunities to learn about the Nature Center's impact on Iowa's economic future, conservation, and quality of life. A short reception will follow the media announcement. The event is open to the public. RSVP required - to secure your free reservation please register here. Space is limited to the first 200 people to register. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Innovative Partnerships in Motion at the Jester Park Nature Center

The Jester Park Nature Center has been a community collaboration project with a broad range of contributors among local education institutions, non-profit organizations, municipalities, and businesses that believe in both the message behind the center and the opportunities that will be brought to the community once this project is brought to fruition. Through these public and private partnerships, a lifetime of learning and outdoor experiences will be available to all who visit the Jester Park Nature Center.

These essential partnerships that have been forged have helped shape the future of the center and will continue to enhance it for generations to come. These collaborations have created partnerships that benefit not only the nature center but also Polk County residents, visitors, and the very land in which we reside.

This project wouldn't be possible without the tremendous support provided by the Great Outdoors Foundation. Acting as Polk County Conservation's fundraising arm during the final phase of this project, the Foundation believes strongly in the role natural resources and quality outdoor recreation and education provide to the community.

In addition to the Great Outdoors Foundation's ample assistance through the design and fundraising process, the Jester Park Nature Center has also received a significant amount of support from a variety of local entities.

Listed below are some of the initial public and private patrons that deserve recognition and thanks for their efforts in this endeavor:

Blank Park Zoo
Central IA Tourism
Cities of Grimes, Ankeny, Des Moines, West Des Moines, Johnston, Polk City, Granger, Pleasant Hill
Des Moines Area Community College
Des Moines Izaak Walton League
Des Moines Water Works
Drake University
Greater Des Moines Partnership
Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau
Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation
Iowa State University
Local Parent Teacher Associations
Local Boy and Girl Scout Troops
Metros Arts Allicance of Greater Des Moines
Metropolitan Planning Organization
Polk County's 10 Public School Districts, Parochial Schools and Home School Educators
Polk Soil and Water Conservation District
Numerous corporate partners
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
UnityPoint Health - Des Moines
Polk County Board of Supervisors
Vision Iowa - Community Attractions and Tourism
Community Foundation of Great Des Moines
Robert and Patricia Jester
Fred and Charlotte Hubbell Charitable Foundation
Principal Financial Group
EMC Insurance
Casey's General Stores
Wells Fargo
Blank Children's Hospital 
The Graham Group 

We would also like to extend a thank you to the various individuals who have devoted much time and dedication in making this project a success in their community:

Campaign Leadership Team Members

Pat Boddy, Campaign Co-Chair                                                        RDG Planning & Design  
Robert E. Jester, Honorary Co-Chair                                             Jester Insurance Services

Jennifer Barp                                                                                           Kemin Industries

Robert Brownell                                                                Polk County Board of Supervisors

Joyce Chapman                                                                       Community Volunteer Leader

Joseph Corfits                                                                                         UnityPoint Health

Cindy Elsbernd                                                                                     Iowa Kidstrong, Inc.

Paul Erickson                                                                                                Bankers Trust

Allison Fleming                                                                        Community Volunteer Leader

Andrew Hubbell                                                                                   Hubbell Development

Connie Johnson                                                      Mercer Health & Benefits Administration

Mike LaMair                                                                            Community Volunteer Leader

Tom Levis                                                                                                Brick Gentry P.C.

Kurt Mumm                                                                                                   NAI Optimum

Lance Northway                                                                                    LightEdge Solutions

W. Jay Ramsey, MD, PhD                                                                                      BioCurity

Bethany Wilcoxon                                                                Greater Des Moines Partnership

Martha Willits                                                                         Community Volunteer Leader

Justin Wise                                                                                                    Think Digital

If your organization or you as an individual would like to contribute to the Jester Park Nature Center, contact Rich Leopold at or by calling (515) 323-5322. Visit for further Jester Park Nature Center details.