The Dysart Development Corporation sponsored an Old Creamery Nature Trail luncheon at the Community Building on Thursday, January 23. Thirty-one people attended to hear Randy Scheel of the Benton County Conservation Board speak about the history, recent improvements and future plans for the trail.
The Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad abandoned the track in 1994. It was purchased by the Iowa Trails Council in 1995. Local volunteers began work on the trail in 2000. The name comes from Iowa's only professional theater company, once located in Garrison in an old creamery, just steps away from the train tracks. The trail is now 14.25 miles of packed limestone with one additional paved mile on the west end in Dysart. Part of the trail is open, and part is wooded. There was great damage from the 2011 derecho, as the trail was almost in the center of the storm's path. There are nine bridges and each mile is marked.
In 2010 the trail was donated to the Benton County Conservation. This has increased the volunteer and maintenance base, improved access to equipment and services, and provided a savings on insurance. There has been increased exposure to the public, as well more opportunities to receive grants and funding. The trail group still meets monthly spring to fall to support the trail and help with fund-raising.
Pictured at the old creamery nature trail meeting are (L to R) DDC president Dwayne Luze, speaker Randy Scheel and mayor Pam Thiele.
Activities on the trail include biking, jogging, walking, cross country skiing, bird watching, nature study, and photography. Two newer activities are geo-caching, a type of GPS treasure hunting, and snowmobiling, which was controversial, but proved to be a positive decision because it packs the trail and decreases vandalism. Snowmobiles are the only motorized vehicles allowed, except for special events or maintenance.
Current fund-raisers are T-shirt sales and Christmas wreaths made through the Isaac Walton League. The "Poker" ride was also popular, where riders receive one card at each of 5 stations, and at the end of the ride, the best hand wins.
Goals of the trail group include: continued trail surface improvement with base, fabric weed control, and finish top layer, increasing the native species and improving habitat, pavilion with restrooms and shade in Garrison, and ultimately, connections to Yankee Grove Cemetery, Hickory Hills, and the Cedar Valley Nature Trail at both ends.
Neighboring landowners in attendance noted some challenges included weed management and invasive trees growing out of control. Randy Scheel agreed that this issue has even been more challenging since the windstorm had damaged so many of the native species. The trail group is working hard to address these very real problems, with hopes that better equipment and funding will help. Landowners also mentioned vandalism, and Mr. Scheel said that increased traffic has proved to be the best deterrent.
Russ Grimm announced the Business Builders in Dysart are planning a "Beats, Burgers, Brats, Brews, and Bikes" night in August to promote the Nature Trail. See you all then!!
Please contact Ruth Schafbuch, at 476-3727 if you have questions or want to get involved with our Old Creamery Nature Trail.