Fourmile Creek Greenway
The Fourmile Creek floodplain has experienced numerous catastrophic flood events over the last 30 years. Gradually, FEMA and local funding have been used to purchase flood-damaged property from private owners, resulting in hundreds of acres of potential green space along Fourmile Creek. A master plan for the management of the Fourmile Creek Greenway has been developed, and Polk County Conservation has been tasked with leading the land restoration and management efforts in the area. Polk County Conservation has created a restoration plan which will convert the land to its natural conditions, utilizing wetlands for the cleansing and controlling the water entering Fourmile Creek. Most of the greenway will be planted with native tallgrass prairie or converted to a combination of prairie and oak woodland, known as savanna. Utility and road infrastructure will be removed as part of the “rewilding” efforts in the area. Multi-use trails for bikers and hikers will be added as well. These changes are designed to benefit the water quality in Fourmile Creek, mitigate future flooding and provide additional recreational amenities for local residents.
Crane Meadows is a more than 300-acre restoration site located in the floodplain of the South Skunk River. Most of the land was previously used for row crops; however, a portion of it was designated to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The CRP area has already been planted with a low-diversity native prairie seed mix, while nearly half of the 200-acre portion previously used for row crops is now in the process of restoration. This acreage will eventually be added to the Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt, a 9,000-acre wildlife area located in northeast Polk County. The long-term restoration plan includes historic oxbow and glacial wetlands excavation, as well as the planting of a diverse mix of native tallgrass prairie grasses, sedges and wildflowers. A degraded 27-acre swamp white oak savanna is also undergoing restoration. The remaining crop and CRP acreage will be restored to a prairie-wetland complex over the next few years.
Easter Lake Park
Polk County Conservation is currently working with Iowa DNR to address the turf areas around Easter Lake. Moving forward, native prairie varieties will be planted between Easter Lake and the surrounding hard surfaces in an effort to mitigate the Canadian goose overpopulation in the area. Geese prefer open, mowed areas where they can feed on lush green growth and have a clear view of potential predators. The taller prairie plants will make shoreline areas less attractive to geese and will deter them from nesting along Easter Lake. This will in turn aid in improving the water quality at Easter Lake by capturing sediment and nutrients and reducing the amount of goose feces runoff. The native prairie will also add to the overall aesthetic appeal surrounding Easter Lake.