Our Story

Established in 1996, the Great Outdoors Foundation’s original name was the Conservation Foundation for Polk County. Its original purpose was to receive financial contributions to help local government agencies acquire interest in properties for conservation purposes. Since that time, our role has grown tremendously.


The Great Outdoors Foundation is Central Iowa’s pathway to sustainable, healthy environments. We are a regional conservation leader and a catalyst for high impact environmental projects. We convene partners with a shared vision, drive collaboration, and raise awareness and funds. Our priority initiatives expand and restore natural spaces, foster outdoor recreation, promote conservation, and build passion for nature.

We connect people of all ages and backgrounds to nature by collaborating with other organizations who share a common vision of healthy environments that provide a variety of outdoor recreation and education opportunities. Driven by our clear purpose, we challenge ourselves to seek and take on partner projects offering exceptional and long-term impact requiring a regional approach and creative funding.

Check Out Our Latest Project Take a Look at Our On Going Projects View Our Accomplishments


The Great Outdoors Foundation boldly put out the vision to create a world class, nationally known parks and trails system by creating a regional parks plan that creates a sustainable funding mechanism for parks and trails, provides branding and marketing for the region, as well as a shared vision and implementation plan.

Natural resources and outdoor recreation in the greater metro area play a critical role in maintaining our quality of life. Our trails network, parks, and greenways attract people to the community, while providing easy access to all for healthy living through walking, cycling, bird watching, paddling, playing, and more.

Without restored landscapes and improved habitat for both people and wildlife, we continue to place our water resources at great risk for pollution and flooding. If the public is not well-educated in conservation issues, our expenses to reduce waste, improve air quality, and fight the impacts of climate will continue to skyrocket.


During strategic planning over the years, with steady and consistent dedication and support, Central Iowa has built an impressive trail system dotted with showcase parks. Through the work of individual cities and counties, Central Iowa provides outdoor recreational opportunities that rivals many communities that are larger than ours. Central Iowa’s quality of life and ability to attract and retain talent is directly linked to this conscious effort of improving our outdoor recreation. Even with these outstanding accomplishments, Central Iowa still falls short of capitalizing on existing investment. With dwindling budgets at the local, state, and federal level, the future of our existing green capital is threatened.

Budgets are tightening with no relief in sight, the growing size of the metro is beginning to tip us into cooperation by necessity and the shift in work force demographics creates an opportunity to create new frameworks. What is missing is the regional partner to help align visions, convene partners, and build the framework to continue to build upon the great system and take on the next audacious goal. Central Iowa needs the Bravo of the conservation and outdoor recreational world. The Great Outdoors Foundation fits the unique parameters to fill this role.

Now is the time to invest to protect our natural habitats and improve our quality of life
by supporting The Great Outdoors Foundation!


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