Friday, July 25, 2014

Eating Al Fresco is a Picnic

One of my fondest memories as a child is having picnics with my sister and father underneath the same tree on hot summer afternoons. They were nothing fancy – cold meat sandwiches and a bag of chips. We didn’t have a basket or even the classic red and white checked blanket to sit on. But I still remember them. I remember the grass tickling my legs, what a treat that cold sugary drink was to wash down my meal, and how special this small gathering made me feel. I don’t know how a picnic can make a person feel that way. It took so little planning and preparation – but it was different. It was outdoors. It was special.

 From my dad’s perspective, there were fewer crumbs on the floor and the walk home to burn off stored up lunchtime energy. From mine and my sister’s, it was a different setting; instead of being surrounded by white walls and brown linoleum floors, there were blue skies and trees. I now know how important it is for children and adults to make contact with nature but at the time it was just lunch with Dad.

 Polk County Conservation’s Family of Parks has a variety of picnic settings to choose from. Make someone you know feel special; or treat yourself! Grab a sandwich and a friend and get outside! Picnic basket optional.
Alexis Johnson is a local naturalist who grew up in Jasper County about 30 minutes southeast of Des Moines.
Her family’s picnic tree still stands on the grounds of Monroe Elementary School.



Monday, June 23, 2014

Amp Up Your Summer Fun!

It’s been a great year so far for this Polk County Conservation venue! The Jester Park Amphitheater was constructed in 2012, and has seen many public programs, musical guests, and private events in its short lifetime. In July and August, the amphitheater will be home to Conservation's summer concert series, Music in the Park. From rock to bluegrass, from reggae to tribute bands, summer music at Jester has provided a variety of sounds for every ear.

Lined up each Saturday for your listening pleasure this July from 6:30 - 8:30 PM:
(Click here to view the full program through August)
07/05 - Flying Pig Fiddle & Banjo
07/12 - Four Mile Creek Blue Grass
07/19 - Nate Nelson Acoustic Show
07/26 - Speaker Jennifer Pharr Davis
(Appalachian Trail Hiker)
This area is also perfect for small outdoor weddings, church services and ceremonies. It is nestled in a hillside of mature oaks with plenty of shade. A modern restroom and playground are within walking distance from the amphitheater. The adjacent mini shelter is included in the rental complete with four picnic tables.  

This area can be reserved from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 to 10:30 p.m. The rental fee is $75 for either daytime or evening usage. However, from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, Saturday evening reservations are unavailable as the area is being used for environmental education programs and public events.

Click here for this facility's calendar of availability!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Jester Park Summer Kickoff

Congratulations, fellow Iowan! You officially made it through yet another blustery winter wonderland and a finicky spring. If you are anything like me, the welcome thaw is met with cheerful anticipation for laying in the sun, relaxing on a boat with fishing pole in hand and hauling out camping gear from the dark recesses of storage.

Canoeing at Discovery Pond

As this long-awaited summer draws ever closer, we here at Polk County Conservation will be celebrating  as well with the grand opening of the Jester Park cabins and the restoration of Discovery Pond (previously Two Dam Pond) on June 8, 2014. We’ll kickoff this event at 1:00 p.m. with a ribbon cutting ceremony in front of the cabins. The festivities will come to a close at 4:00 p.m.

During this fun-filled day you may join a naturalist for a hike along the new half-mile Discovery Trail - hikes will take place every 30 minutes. Float a canoe in or explore Discovery Pond (formerly known as Two Dam Pond) via its new circumferential trail and boardwalk. Fishing is free this weekend so give it a try at this event; poles and bait will be provided. We'll be roasting s'mores at the communal fire pit so bring your appetite for a sweet treat.

Cabins open Memorial Day weekend. Reservations can be made online up to two years in advance.

Be one of the first to view the rental cabins! Each cabin has a two-story walk-out floor plan. Three cabins have one bedroom and sleep six, and one larger cabin has two bedrooms and sleep eight. Amenities include a full kitchen, restroom with shower, gas fireplace, and a barbecue grill. Reservations for the cabins opened in December 2013, and spots are filling fast! Click here to reserve your county park getaway today!

This project was made possible by Polk County Water and Land Legacy and a Land and Water Conservation grant.