Osborne programming and giving opportunities

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Above, Matt Schaffer enjoys an evening bike ride on the Pony Hollow Trail. The trail attracts visitors and new residents to the area while serving as a financial catalyst for Elkader and Clayton County. (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker

The Clayton County Conservation Board is pleased to announce its winter lineup of upcoming events and programs. 

Voyageurs Highway 1971, Thursday, Jan. 18, at 11 a.m. at the Osborne Nature Center. Join Larry and Margaret Stone as they share their story of their canoe trip along the Voyageurs Highway in 1971, with Larry's beautiful photography and their memorable stories. 

Owl Prowl, Friday, Feb. 16, at 5:30 p.m.  at the Osborne Nature Center. Come for a night hike and learn about these secretive nocturnal animals. Visitors will look for wild owls and owl pellets along the trail while we try to call owls in. This fun hike will last about an hour and a half. Remember to bring a flashlight and dress for the weather. 

Winter Tree & Plant ID workshop, Saturday, Feb. 17, from 1-3 p.m. at Motor Mill Historic Site. We will be partnering with the Iowa DNR and ISU Extension for this wonderful winter workshop identifying trees and plants in their winter condition. Meet in the campground for an approximate 1 -1.5 -mile hike. 

Bats, Bats, Bats! Saturday, March 2, from 2-4 p.m. at the Osborne Nature Center. Come learn about this amazing creature and why it is in jeopardy. Participants will then put together a bat box to provide roosting habitat for this declining species. 

Snowshoes for rent

The Clayton County Conservation Board has several snowshoes available for day or multi-day rentals. For just $5 per day (plus a deposit refunded upon return of the shoes), you can enjoy the trails at Osborne or anywhere else no matter how deep the snow gets. Snowshoes are available in sizes ranging from youth (age 8+) to adult. Inquire at the Osborne Nature Center or call 563-245-1516 to reserve a pair. 

Help extend Pony Hollow Trail

The Clayton County Conservation Board needs help building the Pony Hollow Trail Extension. 

In 2019 the group was awarded a Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant for $192,000 to be available in federal fiscal year 2024 (October 2023).

"To accomplish the Pony Hollow Trail Extension, we need your help," said Jenna Pollock, Executive Director. "The Enhance Iowa Community Attraction and Tourism (CAT) grant could bring in an additional $250,000 (or 20% of the total project cost)." 

The Conservation Board and staff have been working to secure other grants including public and private fundraising. "To apply for the Enhance Iowa CAT grant we need to have 65% of the total costs of the Pony Hollow Trail Extension secured. That means we need to raise an additional $30,000 to be eligible to apply," explained Pollock. 

Donations to the project are tax-deductible contributions as the current tax code allows. "We would greatly appreciate a   response by Feb. 15, 2024," noted Pollock "In the meantime, Conservation staff will continue working on the grant to move the project forward and try to bring these state dollars back to Clayton County for community betterment." 

If a financial commitment is not possible please consider pledging a letter of support. "The enhance Iowa CAT grant likes to see community involvement and support," commented Pollock. "The Pony Hollow Trail Extension project came to fruition through community visioning and was backed by public input through community surveys completed by Clayton County Conservation in 2018 and most recently by the City of Elkader in 2020."

The trail expands on healthy opportunities along a scenic corridor.  "The trail helps attract visitors and new residents to the area while serving as a financial catalyst for the community," said Pollock "Clayton County has accomplished a great deal in 2023 and you have helped Clayton County Conservation's community projects come to fruition. We are thankful for your support and dedication to grow the future of Clayton County!"

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