COMING SOON! A new Naturalist (farewell my friends).

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Some of you may already know, but I have some news… I have a new job.  Let this article serve as my formal declaration that my last day working for the Madison County Conservation Board will be Friday, April 22 which, fittingly, is Earth Day.  This is a very bittersweet announcement as I have enjoyed my four years here immensely.  As I sit here writing this from a desk in an office, it seems like another normal day writing an article for the local paper but most of you know that this job was anything but ordinary.  As a matter of fact, it was rather extraordinary. 

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Madison County wasn’t the first full time county conservation position that I applied or even interviewed for but it was the office, the staff and the community that saw something in me that I’m not sure I had even yet seen in myself.  I remember coming into the office and feeling a bit silly and uncomfortable in my business-casual interview clothes.  I sat down, was offered a cup of coffee and told Jim Liechty and Steve Pearson a little bit about me.

I had interned with the Black Hawk County Conservation Board when I was going to school at Northern Iowa as an Earth Science student and had interned with the Cerro Gordo County Conservation Board in Mason City while living at my grandparent’s house in Clear Lake.  I was currently working in the private sector for a small environmental consulting company in Ankeny and wanted to break into the full time world of environmental education and outreach.  My passion for science education, my energy and organizational skills and my willingness to work long hours for very little money must have been encouraging because as they each took their turns showing me around town and later the parks, we all seemed to be getting along pretty well.  After Jim called a few days later to offer me the job, I immediately started crying, called my dad and said “dreams really do come true.”

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It’s hard not to get emotional about work that I have loved in a community that has embraced me with open arms to the point where I no longer feel like an outsider.  I love heading into the classroom to dissect owl pellets.  I love getting classes out in the parks to test water quality and catch tadpoles.  I love leading fossil hikes for scout groups and passing the salamander around a 4-H meeting.  I love taking furs into the retirement homes and discussing what a lovely (yet no longer appropriate) coat they would make.  I love coming home at the end of the day smelling like smoke from a long day of timber burning.  I love meeting new people and learning new things and listening to the jokes of kindergartners.  I love feeling like I’m making a difference and I hope that my work has been as meaningful for the kids and families and classrooms and individuals of Madison County as it has been for me.  I can’t express just how meaningful it has been for me.  I put my heart into my work and have gotten back so much love and support from all of you.  Thank you.  Thank you so much for the incredible opportunity to serve this incredible county.

AP Bio canoe trip

my kiddos

My next adventure will take me all around the state, but will be based out of Des Moines.  I have accepted the position of full-time Executive Director for Iowa Rivers Revival.  Iowa Rivers Revival (IRR) is a non-profit statewide leader in river education and advocacy and is committed to protecting some of our most precious natural resources – our rivers and streams.  IRR works to engage individuals, organizations, communities, and government leaders in river awareness, responsibility, and enjoyment to improve and enhance the condition of Iowa waterways – ensuring a quality, safe and lasting resource for future generations (check us out at www.iowarivers.org).

I am very much looking forward to this next adventurous chapter.  I was not looking to make a career change but a new road has diverged in the wood and I must continue to take the one less traveled.  This was not an easy decision or one that was taken or considered lightly.  It is, however, the right decision.  It is time to take a risk, utilize a new skill sets and set a statewide example for citizens, landowners, politicians, students and all of you when it comes to understanding and taking care of our most precious resource; water.

I’m not going to disappear.  I will still live in Des Moines (it’s really not that far away, I promise).  I’ll be back for the Middle River Cleanup and the Evening Under the Stars fundraiser and the Covered Bridge Festival.  I’ll make sure that people know how to get a hold of me and hopefully will be back to do some river restoration on our own Middle River Water Trail in the not too distant future. 

middle river cleanup and crawdad boil

Really, I guess the point of all this is to say thank you.  I am so very proud of the work that I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of these last four years.  It’s been an honor and a joy to come to work with Jim and Steve and Terry every day.  It feels like family.  It feels like home.  And now it’s time to spread my wings and leave the nest.   I have full confidence that the work we’ve done will be continued with and improved upon by the next eager and capable naturalist.  Madison County is an amazing place to work and play and I will miss it and all of you very much.

Remember to get out, get dirty and have an adventure in the parks every now and then.

Happy Earth Day and Happy Trails!

Plant. Grow. Fly

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Mayors Monarch Pledge Final

 

Plant. Grow. Fly. (Blank Park Zoo)

 

DES MOINES, Iowa (March 23, 2016) – Des Moines’ Mayor, Frank Cownie, became the first mayor in Iowa to take the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayors’ Monarch Pledge.

“The City of Des Moines is excited to partner with Iowa communities to fight to save the monarch species as their population has declined more than 90 percent in the past twenty years. Monarchs are one of many species in decline and we can work together to prevent this. As Iowa’s capital city and first to sign the pledge, we welcome other Iowa mayors to join the fight for our planet. Sign the pledge today!” said Cownie.

With the help of Blank Park Zoo’s Plant.Grow.Fly. program, Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, Des Moines Parks and Recreation, and many other partners (INCLUDING THE MADISON COUNTY CONSERVATION BOARD), the City of Des Moines will implement actions over the next year that will support the recovery of the monarch butterfly. Activities will include efforts to encourage citizens and communities to plant milkweed, the host plant of the monarch butterfly.DES MOINES, Iowa (March 23, 2016) – Des Moines’ Mayor, Frank Cownie, became the first mayor in Iowa to take the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayors’ Monarch Pledge.
“The City of Des Moines is excited to partner with Iowa communities to fight to save the monarch species as their population has declined more than 90 percent in the past twenty years. Monarchs are one of many species in decline and we can work together to prevent this. As Iowa’s capital city and first to sign the pledge, we welcome other Iowa mayors to join the fight for our planet. Sign the pledge today!” said Cownie.
With the help of Blank Park Zoo’s Plant.Grow.Fly. program, Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, Des Moines Parks and Recreation, and many other partners (INCLUDING THE MADISON COUNTY CONSERVATION BOARD), the City of Des Moines will implement actions over the next year that will support the recovery of the monarch butterfly. Activities will include efforts to encourage citizens and communities to plant milkweed, the host plant of the monarch butterfly.

DES MOINES, Iowa (March 23, 2016) – Des Moines’ Mayor, Frank Cownie, became the first mayor in Iowa to take the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayors’ Monarch Pledge.

“The City of Des Moines is excited to partner with Iowa communities to fight to save the monarch species as their population has declined more than 90 percent in the past twenty years. Monarchs are one of many species in decline and we can work together to prevent this. As Iowa’s capital city and first to sign the pledge, we welcome other Iowa mayors to join the fight for our planet. Sign the pledge today!” said Cownie.

With the help of Blank Park Zoo’s Plant.Grow.Fly. program, Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, Des Moines Parks and Recreation, and many other partners (INCLUDING THE MADISON COUNTY CONSERVATION BOARD), the City of Des Moines will implement actions over the next year that will support the recovery of the monarch butterfly. Activities will include efforts to encourage citizens and communities to plant milkweed, the host plant of the monarch butterfly.DES MOINES, Iowa (March 23, 2016) – Des Moines’ Mayor, Frank Cownie, became the first mayor in Iowa to take the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayors’ Monarch Pledge.
“The City of Des Moines is excited to partner with Iowa communities to fight to save the monarch species as their population has declined more than 90 percent in the past twenty years. Monarchs are one of many species in decline and we can work together to prevent this. As Iowa’s capital city and first to sign the pledge, we welcome other Iowa mayors to join the fight for our planet. Sign the pledge today!” said Cownie.
With the help of Blank Park Zoo’s Plant.Grow.Fly. program, Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, Des Moines Parks and Recreation, and many other partners (INCLUDING THE MADISON COUNTY CONSERVATION BOARD), the City of Des Moines will implement actions over the next year that will support the recovery of the monarch butterfly. Activities will include efforts to encourage citizens and communities to plant milkweed, the host plant of the monarch butterfly.

The M.C.F.E.E. Chili Throwdown recap

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Chilithrowdownflyer

I want to offer a HUGE thanks to The Sports Page for hosting our event on Saturday.  Many moons ago (long before Molly came to Madison County), the foundation used to put on a chili cookoff.  As one of our goals of 2016, we wanted to revitalize and bring back the event.  So when I say, this was our first year, I simply mean our first in recent history.  The event was LOT of fun and while there are a few tweaks we will need to make before next year, I think it’s safe to say the Chili Throwdown is going to be a timeless MCFEE tradition.

We had 10 formal contestants and 10 very different a delicious batches of chili.  The party room in the back of the restaurant served as our location and the public was invited in to purchase tasting tickets and then vote on which tastes they liked the best (you could have as many votes as tastes purchased).  I know some people are going to be upset with me when I say that the weather could have cooperated (nearly 70 degrees in February???); people want chili to warm them up when it’s cold outside.. we were also competing with a pancake breakfast and an auction and several other events around down.  Regardless, we had a nice turnout around the lunch hour and a fun time was had by all.  I for one left feeling very full and happy!

As is the purpose of the foundation, this event was to raise money for environmental education programs.  Our first place prize went to Winterset’s own Paul Tromba with a secret family recipe that was quite a crowd pleaser.  Stay tuned for upcoming MCFEE events and start perfecting your chili recipes for next year’s throwdown!

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Tasting underway!

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First place!

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All of our fearless contestants!  Thank you so much for participating 🙂

WINTERFEST

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I don’t know about you, but there is something very refreshing for me at the start of the year.  One of my favorite parts of being involved in the world of county conservation is the annual trip to Waterloo, Iowa for the Winterfest Conference.  This is sponsored by the Iowa Association of County Conservation Boards and involves people from all jobs from all counties around the state.  Park Managers, Rangers, Biologists, Naturalists, Directors, Interns, Natural Resource Specialists, Roadside Crew members… you name it, they are there.  It’s our community and it’s so helpful to sneak away to the frozen north to swap stories and ideas and catch up and head back to our individual counties refreshed and invigorated to take on the new year.

This year, Steve, Terry and I attended the conference.  There were some great sessions (one by Winterset’s own Alan Feirer) about rivers, behaviors of a cohesive team, the at-risk status of our turtle population, monarch migration and preservation, legislative updates, how to put a disc golf course in your parks, food plots, beneficial insects, chainsaw safety, investing in your future and so much more.  It’s an opportunity to learn, ask questions and get inspired- or re-inspired.  And it’s a chance to see old friends, former bosses and those conservation employees who experience life in other parts of our great state. My former college roommate Ben Hoksch was even one of the keynote speakers and played the banjo as he regaled us with tales of his canoe journey down the Mississippi River.

It’s good to get away.  It’s good to take the time for extra training.  It’s good to understand that you do have a group of peers that understand what you are going through and want to help you do your job even better.  And it’s good to see familiar faces.

We had a great time and brought back a lot of new and exciting ideas that we hope to implement in our parks and around our county.  Stay tuned!

Happy Trails!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Just a quick note to say hello and wish all of our friends in the community a very happy Thanksgiving!  Our office will be closed on Thursday, November 26th and Friday, November 27th.  We will be open again on Monday, November 30th at 7 AM.

 

REMINDERS:

-We will be sending out a letter to all of our MCFEE members the first week of December to remind you to renew your annual membership.  This is also a great time to BECOME A MCFEE MEMBER and support our environmental education programming in Madison County.

-The MCCB Headquarters will be closed on Christmas Day, Friday, December 25th and New Years Day, Friday, January 1st.

-We will start taking reservations for the 2016 calendar year on the first working week of January (Monday, January 4th).

 

Happy Holidays from your friends at the Madison County Conservation Board 🙂

patty's christmas pic

 

Full Moon Float

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There will be a full moon and some mild temperatures on Tuesday, October 27th so we have decided to host one final Full Moon Float for the season.

If you are interested in joining us, meet out at the City Lake at 6 PM.   Dress warmly and bring headlamps.  Campfire will follow afterward.20150506_141530

If you have any questions, call the office at 462-3536.

For future information about paddling opportunity, consider joining the Madison County River Alliance!

Halloween Hikes

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It’s that time of year again!  Time for some family friendly Halloween fun.  Our annual Halloween Hikes out at Pammel Park is a tradition that has been around for many years and continues to grow.  For this year’s event, I have solicited the help of my Winterset High School Conservation Club students.  They will act in the skits (you’ll get to vote for your favorite one), guide you along the trial, paint faces, run the games,  help with candy monster bag decorating, and take photos of you and your favorite kiddos in costume!  There will also be a hayrack ride that will loop up and through the campground for trick or treating and judging the campsite decorating contest.  Hikes go out every 15 minutes from 6-8 PM on October 24th and activities will be going on in and around the Lodge for the duration of the evening.  There will also be snacks, prizes, hot cider and plenty of fun.  Call 462-3536 to reserve you hike time today!  The cost is $5 per person.  Costumes are encouraged 🙂

 

Who: Madison County Conservation Board

What:  Halloween Hikes

When: Saturday, October 24th from 6-8 PM

Where: the Pammel Park Lodge

Why: A non scary, nature themed Halloween event!

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WE NEED YOU!

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Please consider joining us for our Evening Under the Stars dinner and auction, Saturday, October 3rd starting at 5:30 PM at the Pammel Park Lodge!

Call 462-3536 for tickets TODAY!!!!

MCFEE event flyer

Blank Park Zoo Monarch Festival

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The Madison County Conservation Board is proud to partner with the Blank Park Zoo’s Plant.Grow.Fly. program to bring awareness of the decreasing number of native pollinators around the state.  There are over 30 partners, nearly 500 registered pollinator gardens and so many engaged citizens involved with this initiative.

Sunday, September 20th from noon to 4:00 PM, there will be a celebration of the monarch’s journey from Canada, through Iowa, to Mexico (one of Earth’s great migrations).

“Each fall, the iconic monarch butterfly sets its sights on the mountains of Mexico.  They travel, en masses, through our state on a journey that can be over 2,000 miles long.  We are honored to partner with the Latino Heritage Festival, to highlight the importance of this butterfly to our two countries,” said Jessie Lowry, conservation manager, Blank Park Zoo.

Activities will include a Bug Parade with prized for best costumes, an insect hunt, monarch tagging, crafts, tours of the butterfly garden, shows by Carol Taylor’s Patchwork Puppets, and seeds to plant in your own garden.

Please see the attached flyer for a list of partners and more details about the event.

Pollinators are so important to Iowa.  MCCB has planted several pollinator gardens around the county and will continue to do work for monarchs and native pollinators.

monarch fest press release 2015

 

MCFEE’s First Annual Evening Under the Stars Dinner and Auction

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MARK YOUR CALENDARS!!!!!

MCFEE is having a fundraiser and the key work here is FUN!  But as is true with any auction, we need YOU and YOUR FRIENDS to come fill the joint and bid on some of the amazing things we have for both our silent and live auction.

The event will take place on Saturday, October 3rd starting at 5:30 a the Pammel Park Lodge with appetizers and wine samples with Covered Bridges Winery.

Next, a BBQ chicken and pork dinner complete with baked potato bar and followed by homemade ice cream and cobblers.

The silent auction will go on throughout the evening and the main event will feature professional auctioneer, Steve Hartman of Hartman Auctioneering (who has generously donated his services).

We have stunning artwork, pamper-yourself-packages, gift cards for groceries, car services, and hair and nail care, a guided kayak trip for four and one of a kind, award-winning cakes and pies from local culinary masters!!!!

Tickets are $25 each or $20 for MCFEE members and can be yours today!  Call 462-3536 to reserve your spot and receive your bidding number.

All proceeds go to support MCCB’s Environmental Education program.  What does that mean?  That means science classes, field trips, summer camps, public programs, nature center upkeep, adult field trips and so much more.  We need you to come out, have fun, and waive that paddle in the air to bid on these amazing prizes and packages donated by community members.

Hope to see you there!!!

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