A Des Moines man with a background in education and public policy is leading an effort to improve Iowa’s state parks. The Iowa Parks Foundation Board of Directors recently named Kent Sovern as the organization’s first executive director. The Fort Madison native says his ultimate goal is to encourage more Iowans to visit the state parks.
The Iowa Parks Foundation was established in April of 2008 by former Governor Terry Branstad, former Congressman Neal Smith and Musco Lighting President Joe Crookman. The state parks system was established in Iowa in 1920. Branstad says Sovern will be charged with enlisting public support for the centennial celebration in 2020.
Sovern admits he has a lot to learn about the usage, infrastructure needs and long-term goals for the parks. "I have six days set aside in January where I will be meeting with representatives with the Department of Natural Resources who actually manage the parks system and have that kind of information," Sovern said. "I’ll be meeting with them in regional meetings across the state and really educating myself."
Sovern has served as the executive director of the Des Moines Higher Education Collaborative and says he hopes more kids will become interested in the state parks. "We hear a lot about leave no child behind or No Child Left Behind as far as the educational system…well, maybe we ought to have a statewide initiative that makes sure that we leave no child indoors as well, and get them an experience and appreciation of the natural world," Sovern said. Sovern plans to hold a planning session with the Iowa Parks Foundation Board of Directors in April. For now, Sovern’s consulting and management services company, New Iowa Group Limited, has signed a one year service contract with the foundation.