Winter work

The shop located in the visitors center at Webster County Conservation’s John F. Kennedy Memorial Park has little open floor space at the moment.

Several ATVs in various states of disassembly take up some of the room, a big chunk is being eaten up by a set of signs being built for the Gypsum City OHV Park, a skid loader awaits snow to plow and, along one wall, equipment is set up to tan hides that will be used for educational programs.

Matt Cosgrove, Webster County Conservation director, is busy in his office too.

“I just finished the budget,” he said.

This is winter work at Webster County Conservation.

Plenty of paperwork awaits, there is planning for the upcoming season’s programs and work, and property and facility management.

“We repair a lot of what gets damaged,” Cosgrove said.

In addition, he’s been busy preparing for the added help the park requires in the summer, a process that starts a month before anyone actually begins working there.

“Right now I’m getting the job description ready and preparing for interviews,” he said.

Another winter task for Cosgrove is visiting the other 22 sites under Webtser County Conservation’s management. He inspects the sites and develops lists of projects that need to be done.

That can range from repairing a fence to replacing signs damaged by vandals.

Cosgrove enjoys the quiet time.

“It’s nice to get out there,” he said.

Among the staff, Karen Hansen, naturalist, and Erin Ford, Department of Natural Resources/Webster County Conservation staffer, are kept busy with winter programs for the public. They also use the time to plan for upcoming events.

During the cold winter weeks, park rangers do the work they don’t have time for when it’s warm. They build signs, tan hides and do vehicle maintenance. They also cut and split firewood and make sure snow and ice are dealt with because Kennedy Park is open year-round, including the shelter house, which is available for rent, even in the winter.

Most recently, the rangers helped the Fort Dodge Noon Sertoma Club with the Lights at Kennedy project in the campground.

According to Cosgrove, the change of duties and jobs helps everyone “recharge their batteries.”

And, too, it’s a time of more leisure, when staff can use up comp time they earn over the course of the long summer days. Many of them take time to hunt, fish and enjoy the outdoors.

“They put in a lot of hours,” Cosgrove said. “It’s nice to be able to take some time off and enjoy.”