Friday, November 21, 2014

New Energy and Experience Boosts Operations and Programming at the Jester Park Equestrian Center

If you have not visited the Jester Park Equestrian Center recently, you should! New leadership has revamped operations and programming and they are ready for your family to come be part of the excitement.

Guiding many of these improvements and enhanced certifications are high standards set forth by the Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA). The purpose of CHA is to promote excellence in safety and education for the benefit of the horse industry. CHA certifies instructors and trail guides, accredits equestrian facilities, publishes educational manuals and hosts regional and international conferences. The Jester Park Equestrian Center is on track to receive a comprehensive CHA facility accreditation in 2015. 

Two Equestrian Center staff have completed the necessary training to become CHA-certified Instructors of Riders with Disabilities. Equestrian Program Specialist, Shellie Carmoney, was recently awarded first place in the CHA Instructor Challenge competition at the International Conference. Shellie's Master Level Instructor talents are well known throughout the industry and a valuable resource to our other instructors and the public.

Despite the cold and snowy winter weather conditions, programs and events at the Center are plentiful. Winter camps, holiday programs, sleigh rides, birthday parties, clinics, an extensive selection of riding lessons, and a new Tiny Tots riding lesson program for riders 5-8 years of age are just some of the public opportunities that you can take part in this season.

Great programs and projects at the Jester Park Equestrian Center are only enhanced by the dedicated and passionate volunteers that unselfishly lend their time and talents. From leading pony rides to cleaning stalls to assisting with therapy riding lessons, there are opportunities for people of all ages to discover their love for horses and be part of a series of programs and special events that make a profound impact on many people in the community. Participate in a Volunteer Training Workshop on Thursday, December 4th, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Don't worry if this date doesn't work into your schedule because there are many other trainings that you can attend to learn more about how you can help. For more information or to register for the training, email or call 515-999-2818. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

On This Day In History...

Bikers on hard surface county trail
It's been two years since November 6, 2012, marked a historic day in the world of conservation for Polk County. The Polk County Water and Land Legacy (PCWLL) bond referendum passed with 72% bipartisan support. The resources implemented under this Bond has provided Conservation with funding critical to water quality, wildlife, and projects devoted to trails and recreation opportunities for citizens and visitors of Polk County. Let's take at look at what you have helped to make a reality in our county parks and trails over the past two years! 

PCWLL Bond funds have helped to acquire more than 700 acres of sensitive land in the Camp Creek Corridor between Runnells and Mitchellville, the Beaver Creek Greenbelt, a site for a youth camping at Thomas Mitchell Park, and several properties adjacent to both Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt and Yellow Banks Park. Securing these areas will prove to be important for generations to come for land protection, water quality, and wildlife habitat benefits.

Trail connection has also been at the top of the PCWLL to-do list. The Chichaqua Valley and Mark C. Ackelson Trails are providing trail users with safe off-road metro-wide connections throughout Polk County. Completion of the Gay Lea Wilson Trail also created valuable connections for trail users between existing parks, trails, and businesses in adjacent counties.

Water quality issues remain at the forefront of our priorities. Efforts to improve our local watersheds and how we affect those downstream play an integral part in all project planning. Fort Des Moines Park, Beaver Creek, Camp Creek, Fourmile Creek, and Thomas Mitchell Park have seen key improvements in water quality thanks to on-going restoration efforts. Next on the list for water quality improvements is Easter Lake which will see restoration work begin in 2015.
Father and son fishing at newly renovated Thomas Mitchell Park pond
Our county parks have also seen exciting enhancements over the past two years thanks to the PCWLL bond. Projects include improved accessibility into and throughout the parks, new restroom facilities, parking lots, rain gardens, fishing piers, shade structures, drinking fountains, and campground upgrades.

Jester Park has and will continue to provide exciting recreational and educational opportunities thanks to PCWLL. The summer of 2014 saw the opening of the Jester Park cabins. Hiking, fishing, birding, hunting, and unwinding from the daily grind are all within reach with the comforts of home close at hand. Also on the horizon is construction of the Jester Park Conservation Center which will serve as a pivotal regional facility that will educate people of all ages about conservation and outdoor recreation in central Iowa.

The projects and initiatives mentioned above are just a sample of the many great things that are happening. Keep updated with all current and future PCWLL projects by visiting our website and clicking on the Polk County Water & Land Legacy logo.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Take a Hike!

It is that time of year again! That much-celebrated time in the Midwest when the dog-days of summer give way to warm days and cool, brisk nights; that time when the many oak, hickory, maple and elm trees that dominate the Iowa landscape ignite in a blaze of color against a backdrop of deep blue autumnal skies. This quiet yet vibrant transitional period of the land from summer into winter is a markedly beautiful one throughout Iowa. What better way to enjoy it than to get outside and hit the trails?!

Polk County Conservation, with its 20 parks and trails, provides an ideal setting in which one may enjoy all that nature has to offer this fall season. Peak color in Polk County typically occurs the first through third weeks in October. Want to know fall color conditions in your area? Visit the Iowa DNR website for weekly updates.
Trees are not the only spectacular view this season. Be sure to take in the glory of a prairie’s fall bloom! The dominant yellows of goldenrods, sunflowers, sweet brown-eyed Susan, and multiple species of bidens scatter the land. Adding interest and texture to the rich browns and yellows are the purples of New England asters, gentians and ironweed. Beautiful wild rose hips and the seed capsules of Indian plantain, beardtongue and others all draw the attention of the fall hiker.The constant hum of insects, which make up the vast majority of Iowa wildlife species, is particularly obvious as they prepare for the end of the yearly cycle. Areas where prairies still flourish in Polk County are along old railway corridors, roadsides, and within the hands of passionate individuals and organizations dedicated to restoration of these areas.

Polk County Conservation offers mile after mile of scenic views to enjoy autumn at its finest. Our top four recommended parks to visit this fall are Brown's Woods, Yellow Banks, Thomas Mitchell and Jester Parks. Lace up your boots, pack a water bottle and check out our website for a complete listing of trails. Share your pictures and experiences on our Facebook page or comment below. We look forward to seeing you in our parks!

Brown's Woods (Located just west of 63rd Street in West Des Moines)
The giant oak trees shading this trail system creates a solid canopy of leaves penetrated by dancing rays of sunlight.
Hiking Difficulty: moderate

Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt (Located northeast of Des Moines, 5 miles east of Elkhart)
Tranquil trails wind along the old oxbows of the Skunk River. Keep an eye out for great blue herons, wood ducks, and river otters.
Hiking Difficulty: easy

Easter Lake Park (Located east of SE 14th Street on Easter Lake Drive in Des Moines)
Catch a glimpse of beautiful Easter Lake as you walk along the new Mark C. Ackelson Trail.
Hiking Difficulty: easy - moderate

Fort Des Moines Park (Located on SE 5th Street, south of Army Post Road in Des Moines)
The Aspen Ridge Trail winds through a tapestry of sunlight, shadows, and greenery. Listen for chattering chipmunks, scolding blue jays, and whispering wind.
Hiking Difficulty: easy

Jester Park (Located 15 miles northwest of Des Moines near Granger)
You'll enjoy spectacular views of Saylorville Lake and a wide variety of wildlife on many peaceful trails as you hike through beautiful oak/hickory woodland.
Hiking Difficulty: easy - moderate

Thomas Mitchell Park (Located on NE 46 St. east of Altoona)
The DeVotie Trail is part of the old stagecoach trail that stopped at Thomas Mitchell's cabin. Thomas Mitchell was the first permanent Anglo-American settler in Polk County.
Hiking Difficulty: easy - moderate

Yellow Banks Park (Located 10 miles southeast of Des Moines, south of Hwy. 163)
On the Savanna Trail, you can introduce yourself to some of our oldest residents. This trail guides you past Polk County's few remaining 250 year old savanna oak trees.
Hiking Difficulty: easy - moderate

Hikers on the Hickory Ridge Trail at Jester Park