REAPing the benefits

Among the many conservation projects funded since the Resource Enhancement And Protection program began in 1989 is a Park Pack program with Webster County Conservation.

Karen Hansen, Webster County Conservation naturalist, brought one of the actual backpacks along Tuesday evening to show participants in the program’s biannual regional assembly in the Bob Heun Shelter at John F. Kennedy Park.

“It’s a community education program,” she said. “Participants can check it out for a couple of weeks.”

Each pack contains materials and tools to study one area of conservation or other outdoor activity such as geology or geocaching.

“Its for the family or a teacher can use it with their students,” she said.

Iowa DNR director Chuck Gipp said the programs such as the Park Pack is good example of the program in action.

“It allows the state to partner with local districts,” he said.

He’s also proud of the many projects, such as trail development and water quality improvements, have been funded by REAP.

“It’s made a real difference in the landscape around Iowa,” he said.

It’s also one of the longest essentially unchanged programs in the state. Gipp said that it’s essentially doing the same thing now, in the same way, that it did in 1989.

Tammie Krausman, Iowa DNR REAP coordinator, said that the REAP program has a $16 million budget this year. Some of that money came from the top selling license plate, the Natural Resource Plate.

“The University of Iowa and Iowa State plates are giving them a run for the money though,” she joked.

REAP funding is not just for rural areas, she said that about 15 percent of the budget goes to projects that create city parks and open space. About 20 percent goes to county conservation.

Since the program began, $10,183,260 has been allocated to projects in Webster County. That number includes projects within the city of Fort Dodge that were used for trail development, among other uses.

Small towns have also benefited from the REAP program.

Phyllis Menke, Fonda city clerk, was on hand to talk about her city’s experience with using REAP grants to improve the area around a pond next to their softball fields.

“We’re adding 10 more campsites with full hookups, more cabins and a water quality control program,” she said.

She said the town of 631 is very happy with what they’ve been able to do.

“It’s a good program,” she said.

Not all projects get funded.

Tammie Krausman said that last year, $6.8 million in grants were applied for. Of that, $1.8 million were accepted.

“There’s always more applied for than we have the ability to give,” she said.

Of those applications, they are looking for projects that protect the land she said.

In addition to a discussion on the future direction of the REAP program, participants also elected delegates to the Regional Assembly.