MUSCATINE, Iowa–The Friends of the Fairport Fish Hatchery can now take their next steps in preserving and sharing the history of the hatchery and its role in Muscatine’s pearl button history. June 14, the group received a $47,400 Iowa Department of Natural Resources Research Enhancement and Protection Program–Conservation Education Program grant to begin work on signage for a pair of interpretative trails as well as educational panels for a pavilion marking the location of the old pump house.
According to the Department of Natural Resources, the grant allows groups to: “invest in Iowa, our outdoors, our heritage, our people. REAP is supported by the state of Iowa, providing funding to public and private partners for natural and cultural resources’ projects, including water quality, wildlife habitat, soil conservation, parks, trails, historic preservation, and more.”
Since, the summer of 2020, the Friends have worked to put together an interpretative site in the area occupied by the old pump house. They came up with plans for a pavilion that would tell the story of how the federal government built the hatchery as a biological station to propagate mussels to keep the pearl button industry in business and how modern day research conducted throughout the region and by the University of Iowa on the site hopes to increase the number of mussels in the Mississippi River to improve water quality in the Gulf of Mexico. They also planned to incorporate a pair of trails into the site.
Now, with their IDNR grant in hand, they can begin the work of telling this story. In collaboration with local historians and artists, the Friends have developed a series of signs to mark each trail and the pavilion with. Many of the signs and panels will also feature QR codes that will allow viewers to scan them with a smartphone and view additional information about the site. Both the north trail (which highlights the hatchery’s old residences) and the south trail (which passes by the hatchery’s propagation ponds, major buildings, and an old pottery factory) will have nine interpretative signs and three directional signs each. The pavilion, when completed, will have as many as 14 educational panels with a maximum size of three feet by four feet each.
The Friends plan to begin work on the trails this summer. Thanks to generous in kind donations worth about $40,000, work will soon begin construction of the two trails. They anticipate finishing work on the north trail this fall and on the south trail by next summer. At this time, they do not have a firm timeline for when they will complete the pavilion, as they must first raise $80,000 to finance it.
The Friends continue to wait for word on a pair of additional grants, an Impact Grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine and a Department of Natural Resources Grant that would allow them to work to add the hatchery to the National Register of Historic Places. Additionally, the Friends welcome private donations made through the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine.