Showcasing the parks

During the past few days, the various parks and recreation areas managed by Webster and Hamilton County Conservation served as showplaces for the two as many of the over 200 participants in the 57th annual Iowa Association of County Conservation Boards conference paid them a visit during the 3 day event.

One of the areas on the list – the Gypsum City OHV Park southeast of Fort Dodge was part of the available tours Thursday.

Visitors got a chance to not only see, but experience it the way the public does, while riding an OHV through the many trails at the site.

Scott and Lori Carey, of New Hampton, were among the trail riders. She’s on the Chickasaw County Conservation Board, he serves on the New Hampton City Council.

“There’s nothing like this in our county’s area,” she said.

The couple are dedicated motorcycle riders, they brought their own helmets to wear with a built-in radio system that lets them talk to each other on the road or trail.

The conference provides them an opportunity to see what other counties are doing, they said. They both pointed out that each county in Iowa has it’s own unique topography, population interests and availability of funds. A sentiment shared by most who attend the conference. By sharing ideas, they can bring back ideas that are within their county populations interests and budge.

Brian Huffman, of Osage, is the park manager for Mitchell County. He brought his wife Christine along for the tour of the OHV Park.

“If it’s fun,” she said. “We’ll come back.”

They too have a limited amount of resources.

“County size and population make a difference in what you can do,” he said. “We’re smaller, we have a little less but you do the best with what you have.”

The conference is viewed as an opportunity by Huffman.

“I look for what I do,” he said. “I go to their parks and get ideas, maybe integrate them into our parks.”

He enjoys the conferences.

“I love them,” he said. “You get to see what other counties are doing, it gives you ideas to take home.”

She enjoys them too.

“I get places to visit,” she said.

Darren Herzog is the Park Manager for the OHV Park.

He’s proud of the facility and was looking forward to showing it off.

“It’s fun to see people’s reaction after they get the tour,” he said. “It’s like you’re not even in Iowa.”

So far, nobody has given him the thumbs down.

“I’ve never given a tour to anybody that didn’t like it,” he said.

While the site is managed by Webster County Conservation, building it was a partnership between the City of Fort Dodge, Webster County, the State of Iowa and the Iowa DNR along with private partners and the Gypsum companies that previously mined the land its located on.

It’s proven a popular attraction that brings visitors to the community, those visitors spend money in the community and help make a positive contribution to Fort Dodge’s economy.

Before the first group set out, Herzog gave them a little advice.

“Be careful, some of it’s kind of gnarly,” he said. “You’ll want to stop and look around though.”

The trails, when seen on a map, are a maze. Herzog gave each rider one before they set out.

“Just in case,” he said. “The maps have my cell number on the back.”

Other sites available to those attending the conference included Briggs Woods Park in Hamilton County, a canoe trip on the Boone River, 3D Archery shooting, golf and biking on the trail system at John F. Kennedy Memorial Park.

There were also plenty of educational sessions held at the Starlite Best Western Village Inn and Suites and social times designed to let the various participants get to know each other, network and share ideas.

The conference is jointly hosted by Webster and Hamilton County Conservation.