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Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, February 06, 2014, Page 1

Ringgold County Conservation celebrates 50 years

This year marks the 50th anniversary for the Ringgold County Conservation Board. The RCCB was founded in 1964 by the original five board members: Ronald "Bud" Beymer, Chester Gibson, Barton Turner, Lyle Hosfield and Duane Miller.

In 1955 the Iowa State Legistlature approved the County Conservation Law, now Chapter 350 of the Code of Iowa. These conservation boards are authorized to acquire, develop and maintain areas devoted to the conservation and public recreation. Parks, wildlife areas, preserves, river accesses, recreation areas and musuems are a few examples of areas that have been acquired.

Conservation boards also serve as a primary nature resource management agency in their respective counties, help educate local residents about environmental issues, operate nature centers, manage county wildlife conservation efforts and administer roadside vegitation management programs.

County conservation boards have been created in all of Iowa's 99 counties. The system is a unique blend of lay input, professional staffing and cooperation between county and state agencies. This system is recognized as one of the most successful county conservation programs in the United States.

In the first 13 years of establishment, the RCCB managed their areas without any equipment or staff. The board members volunteered their time and equipment for maintenance. In 1997 the RCBB hired their first and only full-time employee, Mark Versch, as director. In 1980 Versch was replaced by Rick Hawkins, who served for 30 years. In 2010 Hawkins retired and was replaced by Kate Zimmerman. For 37 years the RCCB has been maintained with only one full-time employee.

The RCCB itself has only had 14 board members since establishement in 1964. These members have gone above and beyond their duties as board members to help provide the best service to the communities. These dedicated public servants have ensured the success of the Ringgold County Conservation Board.

Here are the board members and the years they served on the RCCB:

Bud Beymer - 37 years  Chester Gibson - 30 years  Barton Turner - 11 years
Lyle Hosfield - 7 years  Duane Miller - 7 years  Dale Greene - 37 yaears
Kenneth Quick - 19 years  Ivan Shields - 1 year  Bill Hynek - 5 years
Susie Catanzareti - 1 year  Jim Norris - 13 years  Doug Frost - 19 years
Dale Walkup - 23 years  Randy Bishop - 38 years 

For 50 years the RCCB has served the communities of Ringgold County. They own and manage eight areas, encompasing over 1,000 acres. The areas and years the RCCB acquired then are as follows:

Fife's Grove Park - 1966  Poe Hollow Park - 1967
Kokesh Recreational Area - 1972   Ringgold Trailway - 1978
O'Neal Rest Area - 1987  Mapleleaf Pathway - 1988
Boone Woods - 1990  Don & Connie Huff Wildlife Area - 2005

RCCB has been emphasizing Environmental Education over the past few years, and the program has grown substantially with 124 programs and over 2,000 participants last year alone.

In 2012 Director Zimmerman received the Bohumil Shimek Environmental Education Award for going above and beyond her job description in providing educational programming to the public.

Keep your eyes out for news about the RCCB's newest project, a Nature Center for Ringgold County. The Nature Center will provide a place for year-round programming and will be open for scheduled programs as well as ona self-touring basis. The center will offer habitat and wildlife displays, along with live animal exhibits for an engaging and educational experience.

The RCCB has also recently founded the Ringgold Conservation Foundation, a "friends group" to the Conservation Board that will help with fund raising and planning events. This group is made up of community members that include Marcy Gregg, Jessi Grose, Jim Norris, Bill Stump and Roger Townsend.

To celebrate their 50th anniversary, the Conservation Board and Foundation have planned several special events this year. Here are some of the scheduled events to look forward to:

  • March 31 - May 19 - Tallgrass Prairie Travelling Exhibit

  • May 25 - Prairie Chicken Fun Run

  • June 2 - 20 - Digital scavenger hunt

  • August 2 - Movie in the Park

  • September 6 - Monarch butterfly tagging

  • October 12 - Fourth Annual Bike/Hike

  • November 1 - Turkey Trails

    The current Ringgold County Conservation Board of Randy Bishop, Susie Catanzareti, Doug Frost, Jim Norris and Dale Walkup along with director Kate Zimmerman, would like to thank the community for their continued support and look forward to serving you for 50 more years!

    For more information about the Ringgold County Conservation Board, visit mycountyparks.com or like us on Facebook for current updates on events and projects being completed in the RCCB areas.

    "Poe Hollow Bridge" Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News

    Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, February of 2014


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