Muscatine and Louisa County Conservation Boards Host Iowa County Conservation System Conference

Curt Weiss leading a tour of the Muscatine Environmental Learning Center in Discovery Park.

Muscatine County and neighboring Louisa County have many beautiful natural areas between them. From Discovery Park in Muscatine to the Chinkapin Bluffs Recreation Area, these two counties have a lot to offer. From September 17th through 19th, the Muscatine County Conservation Board (MCCB) and Louisa County Conservation Board (LCCB) had the opportunity to showcase the lands they care for and the programs they have in place to visitors from all over the state when they hosted the 2019 Iowa County Conservation System Conference (ICCSC).

The ICCSC brings together members of county conservation boards from each of Iowa’s ninety-nine counties to learn about the latest conservation practices and to gain inspiration from projects done by other conservation boards across the state. According to Curt Weiss, MCCB Director, neither Muscatine nor Louisa County had hosted an ICCSC previously, and recent developments throughout the area made this the perfect time for them to run it. He elaborated, “Once we knew we had the Merrill Hotel going in as a good place to host it, we offered to host, along with Louisa County.” He also cited recent work done at Deep Lakes and Discovery Park as incentives to bring the ICCSC here.

Over the three days that the conference ran, organizers from the MCCB and LCCB kept every participant (roughly 300 in total) busy. On the 17th, hosts treated visitors to four possible activities, a golf outing, canoeing and kayaking at Lake Odessa, biking on the Muscatine trail system, and tours of the National Pearl Button Museum @ History and Industry Center. In the evening, everyone could attend a fish fry for some good food and fun.

The following day began with a session in the Merrill Hotel. After the morning’s meeting, attendees took a trip down the Mississippi from Moline back to Muscatine on the Celebration Belle riverboat. During the river cruise, the MCCB and LCCB led several educational sessions for participants. In the evening, the two boards hosted a barbeque in Discovery Park to continue to allow visitors to socialize and to meet with vendors selling products specifically tailored to meet the needs of conservators. As an added bonus, the MCCB also brought one of the cabins they plan to install at Deep Lakes Parks, so long as the river does not stay as high as it did this year.

On the final day of the conference, participants could choose to take a tour of several of the LCCB parks, or travel to Deep Lakes and Discovery Parks with the MCCB to see their recent projects. In consideration of visitors who traveled from Western Iowa (in some cases, seven hours away from Muscatine), the ICCSC officially ended around 2:30 pm on Thursday.

As the MCCB and LCCB’s first ever ICCSC wrapped up, Weiss felt extremely satisfied with how everything went. In particular, he enjoyed, “showing off our areas and the developments we have in our area. And, getting feedback from our colleagues across the state about what they like, what they don’t, and what they’d do differently.”

Participants in the conference shared Weiss’s feelings too. Dan Heissel, a member of the Woodbury County Conservation Board stated that he got the most out of, “the educational sessions and [being] able to see [Muscatine’s] park system and to learn about their partnerships. They have good partnerships to get programs done.”

The first Louisa and Muscatine County ICCSC proved very successful and allowed the two organizations to show off the many innovative projects they have completed in recent years. Opportunities such as the ICCSC truly paint these counties in their best lights and encourage people from near and far to come explore their natural treasures.