Webster Co. Conservation leads tour

Webster County Conservation has been busy.

To see just how much progress has been made on various projects, it hosted a Conservation Matters Picnic and Tour Friday afternoon.

Matt Cosgrove, conservation director, began a short presentation before the tour with praise for the other agencies that partner with the Conservation Board.

“We have partnerships with the Iowa DNR, the National Resources and Conservation Services, Pheasants Forever and the city of Fort Dodge,” he said.

Not only do they share resources, they also share personnel, he said.

He cited the work of Erin Ford, a shared Webster County Conservation-Iowa DNR naturalist.

“That’s been a really successful program,” he said.

In addition, he praised Darren Herzog, who is both a park ranger and manager of the Gypsum City Off Highway Vehicle Park, and Andy Stanberg, who is shared with the city of Fort Dodge for trail development work.

Conservation also partners with local civic groups.

“We have a great partnership with the Fort Dodge Noon Sertoma Club,” he said.

The club helped build a new picnic shelter in Veterans Memorial Park.

The Webster County chapter of Pheasants Forever is another group that’s been vital; their most recent joint project was helping to pay for 80 acres of land east of Badger that’s now a mentored youth hunting area.

The partnerships are necessary because resources are tight.

“We are no longer in the financial times where you can your own thing,” Cosgrove said.

Another group he credits with helping is the Friends of Webster County Conservation.

“There’s a lot of infrastructure that needs to be worked on,” he said. “With the Friends, we can get it done.”

Webster County Conservation directly owns 1,200 acres. It also helps manage other sites, making them responsible for 2,000 acres in the county.

One of the those sites is the OHV park.

Cosgrove said they are working on the first phase of the campground. Eventually, there will be 33 sites.

Campsites are a good source of revenue, according to Cosgrove. Existing campsites bring in about $120,000 annually, he said.

“These new sites will increase revenue,” he said. “That allows us to reduce our asking.”

The campground and other work is expensive; the bill for the OHV campsite is about $600,000. Recent trail work there brings the total to about $1.2 million.

Very little of that is footed by the county.

“Ninety-five percent or higher is from state and federal grants,” Cosgrove said.

He credits Stephanie Houk Sheetz, senior planner with the Fort Dodge Department of Business Affairs and Community Growth, for that work.

“She’s done a great job of lining up funding,” he said.

Cosgrove offered guests Friday a tour of sites including the mentored youth hunting area, the OHV park and Veterans Memorial Park.

Mike Mulroney, of Fort Dodge, was among those who took the tour.

He was impressed.

“Veterans Park,” he said, “is an amazing jewel.”