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Friday, May 6, 2016

CCCB seeking funds for land purchase

Thursday, November 29, 2007

This is the current entrance to Martin's Access, located along the shore of the Little Sioux River, approximately four miles east of Larrabee and one mile south on Martin Access Road. Photo by Mike Leckband
The Cherokee County Conservation Board (CCCB) is raising money to purchase 78.23 acres immediately east of Martin Area County Park, more familiar to most local residents as Martin's Access.

According to CCCB Director Ginger Walker, approximately $210,000 is needed to complete the purchase. The land is currently held by the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, a private conservation organization dedicated to protecting Iowa's wild lands.

Martin's Access was established in 1960 with the purchase of 24 acres from Charles Martin for approximately $1400. As one of the first public parks in the county, Martin's quickly became a favorite fishing, swimming and picnicking area. The area has retained its remote, wild nature while growing over the years to its current 224 acres.

Field of dreams - Looking due west, this is the site of the proposed new modern campground to be built at Martin's Access. It is located just south of the main entrance on Martin Access Road. Photo by Mike Leckband
The most recent addition consisted of 33 acres on the east bank of the Little Sioux River, obtained in 1990 incidental to land acquisition for a county gravel pit located west of the river.

Forty primitive campsites, numerous picnic shelters, three miles of horse trails, and one -and -a- half miles of additional walking trails welcome today's visitors. The park is popular for sightseeing and wildlife watching, and also for memorials to loved ones who once enjoyed the park's scenic and peaceful nature.

Regular visitors to Martin's Access include campers, anglers, hunters, trail riders, hikers, river paddlers, and sightseers. Many area residents simply enjoy a drive along the park's 2.3 miles of roadway. School children visit annually for nature hikes over prairies, under canopies of aged oak and basswood trees, along rocky streams and across the paths of the park's wild inhabitants, including deer, wild turkey, beaver, raccoons, rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks, woodchucks, coyotes, mink and river otters.

Martin's Access is an important put-in and take-out point on the Inkpaduta Canoe Trail, a 134-mile section of the Little Sioux River. By river, Martin's is situated 10.5 miles downstream from O'Brien County's new Prairie Heritage Center and 13 miles up from the City of Cherokee. Each of these river trips takes the better part of a day in a canoe or kayak. Shorter floats to Barnes Access (3.5 miles downstream) are popular for floaters on inner tubes.

Since Fall 2006, the Cherokee CCB has negotiated and completed the necessary steps toward purchasing almost 80 acres adjacent to Martin's Access from the widow of Charles Martin, for whom the park is named. The proposed acquisition area includes about 60 acres of timber, with the balance in cropland. This additional land will improve accessibility for park visitors by providing a safe, level access road into the area. Existing access includes a steep hill at the entrance that causes annual problems for combination vehicles pulling campers or horse trailers.

A new, modern campground is planned for a portion of the cropland on the new property. Walker anticipates developing 30 campsites with electricity and water, a modern shower and restroom facility, camper cabins, a playground, and parking for day users.

So many people in our community refer to our beautiful river valley and park system as "Northwest Iowa's best kept secret," states Walker,"but it doesn't need to be a secret! We plan to create a top-notch recreation area at Martin's, and to market the scenery, the paddling, the trail riding, and outdoor family fun opportunities to a wider audience."

Due to the remote locations of the park's existing camping areas, the CCCB does not plan to modernize the primitive portions of the park. Trail and campsite improvements are slated to take place in the next year, however. Horse trails, which re-opened to riders during the summer of 2007, will be expanded into the additional property. The entire park is open to hunters from October 1 through April 15 annually, and this rule will extend into the new land as well. Areas of cropland that are not developed for recreational use will be planted with diverse native prairie seed to provide grassland habitat and upland hunting opportunity. These areas are also very erodable, and conversion to tall grasses is expected to improve water quality in the Little Sioux River by preventing soil erosion into tributaries.

Land acquisition has not been a high priority for the Conservation Board in Cherokee County since its initial campaign for public lands in the late 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s. This project represents the county's first opportunity in many years to provide new amenities to residents and visitors by creating a modern recreation area in a rural setting where no such facility exists.

The new camping area is expected to even exceed the popularity of the new modern facilities at Silver Sioux Park in rural Quimby, 22 miles to the south.

Funding this project is the CCCB's main objective and greatest challenge. A highly competitive statewide REAP grant was sought -but not obtained- in August, forcing Walker to seek funding locally and through other grant opportunities.

"We have received enthusiastic support from our local Pheasants Forever and National Wild Turkey Federation Chapters, who will be helping us seek funding through their state committees," states Walker, "And we are proud to have received our first official cash donation from the Cherokee Rotary Club."

Donations from persons interested in contributing to a conservation legacy, memorial gifts, and smaller grants are now in demand, as the Conservation Board and staff attempt to secure ownership of the Martin's Access addition. No development can begin until the county holds the deed. The CCCB has also received the support of the Board of Supervisors, who pledged a minimum of $60,000 from the Rural Betterment Fund over three years toward development of the new recreational facilities. Development costs are estimated at up to $250,000.

All donations toward this public use area are considered tax deductible, and written acknowledgement will be provided to all donors. Donations of $1000 or more will be recognized on a permanent display within the new park area, although smaller donations will be accepted as well. Interested donors may contact CCCB Director Ginger Walker at 712-225-6709, or any Conservation Board member, for more information. Additional details are available by visiting www.cherokeecountyparks.com.

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