Dan Heissel

A new Iowa initiative was launched on Earth Day Monday at a nature center in Sioux City.

The “99 Counties, 99 Parks” initiative is designed to show off the wide array of recreational activities the state has to offer within its county parks. The Director of Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative, Jamie Haberl, says getting outdoors to go hiking or exploring in our parks is a great way to get some exercise.

“We are so fortunate to have so many parks that can give us that ability to get outdoors, reduce our stress and jus to have more physical activity,” Haberl says. “We don’t always have to go to a gym or fitness facility, we can really just get outside, get into nature, get our hands dirty and really enjoy the great resources that exist right here in our back yard.”

Iowa parks annually welcome about 24 million visitors, and State Economic Development Director Debi Durham says those visiting the parks give a boost to Iowa’s economy. “In Iowa, tourism is actually very big business. It’s an $8.5 billion industry sector for our state — which equates to about $500 million in tax revenue, so it’s very important,” according to Durham.

Woodbury County Conservation director, Dan Heissel, says his county is a good example as there are hundreds of acres of parks to explore locally.
He says the county has 18 areas totaling around six-thousand acres for public use. Four are developed parks that include 182 campsites, 76 primitive sites, 10 camping cabins and nine miles of trails.

You may download the “Family Fun Guide” from the “99 Counties, 99 Parks” website to see what the parks have to offer. Many of the parks also include “selfie stands” where visitors can take photos and share their experiences on social media using: #ThisIsIowa or #99parks.

(Story and photo by Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City)