The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation is working on two projects to turn land owned by the Boy Scouts into public areas. Foundation program manager, Brian Fankhauser, says one project involves acquisition of the Winnebago Scout Reservation near Floyd.
“They have just accepted a proposal from the Floyd County Conservation Board and the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, and in the near future we will be supplying them with a legal offer to acquire the property. And we are looking at closing on the property, or taking ownership of it sometime in the first half of 2013,” Fankhauser explains.
The camp has over 300 acres and the INHF offered $700,000 for its purchase. “These scout and church camps are kind of a rare commodity, and they often have large tracts of woodland and other important habitat. And this one in particular has that. It has an oxbow wetland, it has nearly two miles of the ShellRock River, and it has several camping facilities that are in relativly good condition,” Fankhouser says.
“So it really is a perfect fit for the properties for the foundation to help protect.” Fankhauser says once the transfer is complete, the area will have public access.
“They’ll be keeping a majority of the facilities and they’ll try and keep it available for some scouting use, but it’ll also be available to the public for things like environmental education, river access, fishing, camping, cabins,” Fankhauser says. The other Boy Scout land conversion involves woods that are now part of Camp Ingawanis in Bremer County near Waverly.
Foundation vice president, Anita O’Gara, says it’s not a fully-developed camp like the other property.”This would be 140 acres of woodland that anyone could go and enjoy,” O’Gara says. “And it includes a little place where you can use facilities for kitchen, porch and meeting space and still get in out of the weather and still enjoy all that nature has to offer you there on that vast woodland.”
O’Gara says they are working to raise $500,000 to complete the purchase of the land from the Boy Scouts. “The faster we can raise private contributions, the better off the project will be. We’ll be seeking some competitive state funding and grants this summer. And having private gifts in hand helps you compete for those,” according to O’Gara.
“So we’re looking for lots of people who love the woods and would love to have this opportunity near Waverly, and have them be a partner with us.” O’Gara says, like the Floyd County project, this is a unique opportunity to increase public access.
“This is the closest you get to having a turnkey new county park. This is an area that’s been well-managed by the scouts, well loved by the scouts. And already has the small lodge facility right there ready for people to use. So, it’s ready to go with all the wildlife and ready to go as soon as we can make it happen,” O’Gara says.
Once the money is raised and the land purchased, the foundation will turn the land over to Bremer County. To find out how you can donate to the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, go to their website at: www.inhf.org.
Or you can call 1-800-475-1846.