Clayton Co. Conservation 2023 annual report

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The Clayton County Conservation Board manages 1,401 acres which includes seven campgrounds that accommodated over 2,732 campers in 2023. (Photo courtesy of Clayton County Conservation)

By Caroline Rosacker

Clayton County Conservation is on a mission to promote the health and general welfare of the people, to model and encourage preservation, conservation, education and recreation through responsible use and appreciation of our natural resources and cultural heritage. 

The following information is a summary of all the great accomplishments staff, volunteers and monetary donations towards beneficial projects have accomplished in 2023.

Osborne visitors

In the past year, the Osborne Conservation Center, located at 29862 Osborne Road, five miles south of Elkader on Highway 13, welcomed 5,441 visitors from seven countries, 31 states, and 54 Iowa counties according to a volunteer guest register.

Osborne features a native wildlife exhibit, pioneer village, walking trails, open shelters, Nature and Welcome Center/gift shop, and is open November through March (winter schedule) from 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Monday- Friday, and closed on Saturdays and Sundays.

The summer schedule begins in April through October, from 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 12:00-4:00 p.m. Sunday. All parks close year round at 10:30 p.m. 

Motor Mill 

The Motor Mill Historic Site, located in the Turkey River valley, welcomed 1,663 individuals from 22 different states and six foreign countries. 

The historic district boasts an impressive six-story limestone mill and four related stone buildings built in the 1860’s, which include the newly restored Inn at Motor Mill, numerous walking trails and primitive camping opportunities. 

Guided tours of the mill, four related outbuildings, and the Motor Mill town site are offered each Saturday May through October, from noon-5 p.m. ​

Educational programs

Conservation staff members and volunteers  offered 381 events, consisting of 640 presentations delivered to 9,080 participants (75 percent youth) equaling 556.25 program hours.

The environmental program's success can be attributed to the organizations dedicated volunteers and long-standing cross-agency partnerships.  

Conservation staff

Conservation staff members are director Jenna Pollock; office manager Molly Scherf; office assistant/director of sales Ean Popenhagen; park ranger Zach Dingbaum; operations and maintenance Hunter Jensen and Nick Moser,  naturalist/natural resource manager Kenny Slocum; naturalist Abbey Harkrader; seasonal employees, non-staff members Paul and Cathy Marcotte, and Pam and Mark Reinig, and numerous volunteers. 

Board members

The Clayton County Conservation Board, which includes Daryl Landsgard, chair; Pamela Vaske, vice-chair; Larry Stone, secretary; Gary Kregel, chair and Natasha Hegmann, manages 1,401 acres which include seven campgrounds and 18 areas managed for wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities. 

Those areas accommodated over 2,732 campers spending a total of 2,185 nights in Clayton County, providing $35,347.54 back into the conservation budget for maintenance and development needs. 

Grants received

In 2023, $1,764,545 was realized to assist with conservation projects and program improvements. Many of the grant awards were carry-over from previous years for ongoing projects at the historic Motor Mill site, Osborne Campground and Pony Hollow Trail Extension. 

Looking ahead

Clayton County Conservation Board and staff members will turn their attention to the future and consider modifications to operations moving forward.

In November 2023, visioning and goal setting work sessions began. The Conservation Board hopes to survey the public once the campground and trail extension projects are complete to re-evaluate  public interest.

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