An 18-month planning process is under way for water trails and low-head dam safety in Iowa. A series of listening sessions are scheduled around the state in coming months.
Recently, the Cherokee County Conservation Department hosted one of these public meetings. That input will influence Iowa Department of Natural Resources' priorities and plans in coming years.
Cherokee County Conservation Director, Ginger Walker has recently been helping to get some funds together to print new CCCD paddlers' map of the Little Sioux River,
"Water trails have become a key new way for Iowans to connect with their rivers and lakes," said Nate Hoogeveen, River Programs Coordinator for the Iowa DNR. "Canoeists and kayakers are using water trails to learn about wildlife they can watch, plan adventures, locate water-access campsites, and learn about the character of streams before they go out."
At the same time, the number of dam-related deaths spiked to six in 2006, some of those on water trails actively being developed.
"It's important that dams are part of the conversation, as most Iowans have no clue as to the dangers of these structures," said Hoogeveen. "Outreach, education, and physically changing the way these dams are constructed needs to be part of the overall plan as we go forward."
Iowa State University's College of Design was awarded an $110,000 contract by the Iowa DNR in October to lead development of the plan.
"We very much want to hear from Iowans on what experiences they want from their rivers and lakes," said Mimi Wagner, a professor in ISU's Department of Landscape Architecture. "A number of things can affect their experience on these public resources, such as the accesses they use, the information available, and long-term maintenance of water-related facilities.
We welcome and need input in developing priorities for limited funding that make sense for Iowans."
ISU and the Iowa DNR kicked off its Statewide Water Trails and Low-head Dam Safety Plan along the Raccoon River in Adel with over 100 people in attendance on September 29. This planning process will provide the framework for development of water trails going forward, and a how-to manual for volunteers and public lands managers developing water trails.
The upcoming listening sessions are the public's first opportunity to give input, and will serve as the foundation for more in-depth exploration of how draft elements of the plan are developed. Five regional sessions will be held.