MUSCATINE, Iowa–Throughout the summer, the Friends of the Fairport Fish Hatchery have worked steadily towards their goal of creating a series of interpretive trails and an educational pavilion to introduce visitors to the role the Fairport Fish Hatchery played in the pearl button industry when it first opened as a federal biological station focused on propagating mussels. With the help of an Impact Grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine, the group looks to take the next step in their project, building a new bridge to increase the walkability of their interpretive trails.
When the Friends of the Fairport Fish Hatchery started working on creating interpretive trails to highlight some of the most historic spots at the Hatchery, they found that a bridge integral to the trail system would require replacement. The old, narrow structure had long ago fallen into disrepair, making it dangerous for hikers and impossible for visitors with disabilities to use.
To ameliorate this problem, the Friends of the Fairport Fish Hatchery applied for and received an Impact Grant worth $6,600 from the Community Foundation. After working with Day of Caring volunteers to remove the old bridge, they will use the funds to bring in a bridge contractor to put up the new, Americans with Disabilities Act compliant, bridge as quickly as possible. Friends of the Fairport Fish Hatchery President Sandy Stevens shared the group: “is honored and thrilled to be the recipient of this Impact Grant, and we are very excited to work with CFGM, DNR staff, and Steve Tomfield, bridge contractor, to build the bridge and open the trail to students and visitors. We are hoping to complete the bridge construction this fall.”
Once work on the bridge wraps up, making the south trail more usable, the Friends have several other projects on the horizon. Later this fall, they hope to have concrete footings for the interpretive pavilion as well as a concrete parking pad poured. Then in the spring, they will seek out a contractor to construct the pavilion, with the intent to have it built by fall of 2023.
Throughout the spring and summer, working in tandem with Eric Adam of the Muscatine Soil and Water Conservation District and the USDA-NRCS office, the Friends will complete an Environmental Quality Incentives Program to remove invasive honeysuckle from along the north trail and around the Hatchery’s former living quarters, install bluebird boxes, and start a pollinator field by the historic barn located near Highway 22.
Once they receive the finished text panels to place along both trails and at the pavilion itself, the Friends will erect them as well, giving hikers and bikers as well as visiting school groups an opportunity to learn about mussels and the history of the Hatchery at their own pace. The Friends also intend to develop curricula for children in kindergarten through 12th grade to allow schools throughout the Midwest, even those that cannot visit the site, to learn about its unique role in the local ecosystem and in history.