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SE grad Schomberg working to help Effigy Mounds

—Photo courtesy Justin Rogers/Rogers Photography St. Edmond graduate Joe Schomberg has started a project that would see Effigy Mounds become a national park. The area is currently a national monument.

HARPERS FERRY — Joe Schomberg was taking in the sights on a trip back to Chicago from Fort Dodge when he first laid eyes on Effigy Mounds National Monument.

The beauty of the area has led Schomberg, a St. Edmond graduate working in Chicago, to take on a project that would see Effigy Mounds become a national park.

Built by the Woodland Culture in the first millennium, more than 200 prehistoric mounds built by Native Americans call the 2,526 acres of land located in Allamakee and Clayton Counties home.

“We wanted to start the conversation; regardless if you agree or disagree, this is something that is important to not only Iowans, but all Americans,” Schomberg said during an interview with Iowa Public Radio. “What deserves to be called a natural beauty and be sectioned off for people to enjoy.

“(Effigy Mounds) gives Iowans and Midwesterners a park to showcase and be proud of; to showcase a natural beauty.”

An avid hiker, Schomberg has taken in such parks in other parts of the country. He believes there is an overwhelming need for that in Iowa.

“If you ask people to name five national parks, they can probably do it. Naming national monuments, that is much more difficult,” he said. “It is such a special thing to hike in national parks.

“We discovered it for ourselves a few years ago. We love to travel to national parks and go hiking, enjoy nature. Driving through eastern Iowa to Chicago, we stopped by and within about 20 minutes, we couldn’t stop talking to each other about (Effigy Mounds).

“We spoke with a great park ranger who told us about the park history in trying to make it a national park for about 110 years. It all fascinated us and we’ve been obsessed ever since that trip.”

Schomberg noted that to change the area from a national monument to a national park is “congress has to pass a bill.”

“When we first submitted the op-ed (article) it was just to get the ball rolling,” he added. “To start the conversation, so it is exciting to continue doing it. We don’t really have any plans set in stone, we would just love to hear more about how people feel.”

Over 20 tribes are associated with Effigy Mounds which include natural features such as forests, tallgrass prairies, wetlands and rivers.

When first built, Effigy Mounds was used by Native Americans and early settlers to draw natural resourses from the area. It also served as a point of transition between eastern hardwood forests and the central prairies.