Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Find Your Wild Place. Breathe It In.


What is your wild place? Where do you go to re-energize and unplug from the daily grind? September 2014 marks 50 years since the signing of the Wilderness Act into law which set aside an initial 9.1 million acres of wildlands. Today, nearly 110 million acres in over 750 wilderness areas throughout the United States fall under the protection of this Act.

Iowa's wilderness once consisted of vast prairies that covered 30 million acres. It is said that Iowa is the most altered state in the nation as this prairie landscape has been reduced to less than one-tenth of one percent. Iowa is also one of six states without designated wilderness areas. But we can still find a natural setting in which one can relax, unwind and find adventure in a wild place.

Join Polk County Conservation on September 2nd from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. at the Jester Park Lodge to celebrate all things wild and protected under the Wilderness Act. Chris Adkins, a Naturalist for Dallas County Conservation, will start the conversation on wilderness. We will explore questions ranging from what designates an area as "wilderness" and where we might find that in Iowa. What is the value of these special places to the citizens of Iowa? What the future holds for these wild spaces will be discussed as well as our role in its preservation. Special guest presenter Dallas Chief Eagle, champion hoop dancer, will also demonstrate traditional Lakota hoop dance as he engages the audience via dance and story to view our position in nature and our relationship to nature.  

"If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it."
- President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964



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!