[Masthead] Fair ~ 51°F  
High: 84°F ~ Low: 55°F
Friday, May 6, 2016

Basic Biittner : That Wonderful Year, 1959

Friday, May 15, 2009

When I was a kid, there used to be a variety show on television called The Gary Moore Show. Probably the only thing it's remembered for these days is the discovery of a talented young comic actress named Carol Burnett, who, of course, went on to host her own variety show - probably the best - and pretty much the last - weekly variety show on t.v., a staple of Saturday night programming on CBS for many years.

Another part of the show that I enjoyed, though, being a history buff, was a segment called "That Wonderful Year." Each week, a particular calendar year would be saluted with songs and skits.

In my personal life, one year that I didn't particularly care for, and didn't want to see saluted or remembered, was 1959. You see, '59 was one of only two years between 1949 and 1964 that my beloved New York Yankees did not play in the World Series. You got it - it was an "Unofficial World Series" year.

I'm here today, though, to say that, with the passage of time, I've had second thoughts There are plenty of reasons to salute 1959 as a Wonderful Year. On a personal note, My wife's sister Marcia and my brother's wife Nancy both made their first appearance that year (i.e., it is the year of their birth).

On a Cherokee County-wide level, though, 1959 (though of course we didn't know it then) was a VERY Wonderful Year, as three local businesses or organizations were also "born" that year - all of which have become icons of the county, and reasons to be proud we live here.

Earlier this spring, the Cherokee Community Theatre celebrated its 50th Year with a wonderful evening of performances and memories, and all this month, R.J. Thomas Manufacturing is also celebrating its 50th year of what has become a worldwide business. he Chronicle Times has covered both of those anniversaries already - and were very glad to do so.

There was, however, one more Cherokee County organization which was formed in January of that wonderful year, 1959, and that organization has overseen a wonderful program which continues to expand in its 50th year. The organization to which I refer is the Cherokee County Conservation Board. A January article from the Cherokee Archives states:

"The newly formed Cherokee County Park Board held an organizational meeting this week and elected Rex Whitney president. A.J. Leonard was named vice-president and Melvin Dorr secretary at the session Wednesday evening in the county auditor's office.

A spokesman for the board said the first six months to a year would be devoted largely to planning projects. At the end of that time, the board expects to present specific plans to the Board of Supervisors for budgeting.

Creation of roadside parks along highways in the county and the possibility of providing access roads to fishing areas along the Little Sioux River were discussed.

Another project brought up was the development of one or two larger recreational areas on artificial ponds or lakes in the county."

For the record, in addition to Board President Whitney (aka my dad), "Abe" Leonard and Melvin Dorr, one of the other early CCCB members was John Gilchrist, who contacted R.J. Thomas the following year and suggested the idea that really got Thomas' business rolling - manufacturing grills, tables and benches for the Public Access Areas on which the CCCB hoped to create park areas. Richard Simmons (no, not that Richard Simmons), better known as Dick, was the "Maintenance Officer" in the early years of the Cherokee County Conservation Board, and he was the guy who supervised and maintained these areas. I remember many a night when Dick was over at the house visiting with Dad, and also remember John Gilchrist and his wife, Ruby, stopping by.

I recently came across a pamphlet entitled "Cherokee County Public Access Areas," which was prepared by the CCCB. Unfortunately, there is not a date on it, but my guess is it's from the mid-to-late Sixties. At any rate, the Board members at that time were Robert Rawson of Pierson, Cal Leonard of Holstein, Janet Fishman of Cherokee, Gerald Palleson of Marcus, and Dad. The CCB had also established and was administering nine different Public Access Areas : the Nelson Area, Martin Area ("Martin's Access"), Barnes Area, a Roadside Park Area one mile west of Meriden, Larson Lake (aka "The Gravel Pit") 2 1/2 miles northeast of Aurelia, the Pearse Area 21/2 miles northeast of Quimby, the Stieneke Area halfway between Quimby and Washta, the Ritts Area, 1/4 mile north of Washta, and the Ranney Knob Area, 1/4 mile west of Washta. all were equipped with picnic tables, grills, and toilets,most had wells, some had a camping area, and many also offered fishing - for catfish, carp, bass, bullheads. a few walleyes, and panfish.

Quite an accomplishment in just a few short years.

The good news, though, is that things have just continued getting better for area outdoor enthusiasts over the ensuing years, thanks largely to the planning and work of the Cherokee County Conservation Board. Since 1972, 10 hours of hunter education have been required for young hunters to obtain their license, and the CCCB frequently offers a Hunter Education course, which provides young area hunters with gun handling education, information about firearms and ammunition, the role of hunting in wildlife management, conservation responsibilities of the outdoors-man, outdoor ethics, hunter preparedness, and wildlife identification.

The CCB now has 12 public access areas that they administer, and in addition to fishing and camping, horse trail riding and canoeing on the Little Sioux River area also available at some spots. Iowa Code 350 established Conservation Boards in all 99 counties, so all counties now have one, but of course, Cherokee's is the best!

Cherokee County is an ideal destination for hunters and anglers, campers, history buffs, artists and art lovers, canoeists, families and anyone interested in a relaxing and scenic retreat from the daily grind.

The Cherokee County Conservation Board is a five-member, voluntary panel of citizens who area appointed by the Cherokee County Board of Supervisors. Each member typically serves a five-year term, and may be reappointed for consecutive terms. The CCCB meets monthly, usually on the 2nd Monday. Meetings are open to the public and agendas are posted at the Cherokee County Courthouse and the CCCB headquarters at 629 River Road prior to the meetings.

Current Board Members are John Barlow, Chair; Brad Husman, Vice-Chair; Dave Skou; Steve Nelson; and Mark Pierce.

The CCCB employs three full time staff - Director of Administration and Environmental Education Ginger Walker, Field Operations Supervisor Chad Brown, and the latest addition to the staff, Natural Resource Technician Lucas Straw. They also employ up to four summer aides as well. Staff are chosen based on their experience and education, their ability to work with the public, and their desire to keep Cherokee County's parks in excellent condition. The staff makes environmental education a priority, and has the knowledge and experience to answer many questions about the parks, local wildlife, plants and natural history.

The CCCB is responsible for the development of facilities and services for outdoor recreation in Cherokee County Parks; the maintenance of campgrounds, picnic areas, park buildings and roads; coordination of community projects such as trails, boat ramps, and outdoor classrooms; the maintenance and improvement of natural habitat within county parks; providing technical assistance to private landowners with habitat improvement questions; classroom and public environmental education programs; addressing wildlife questions and issues; the rescue and assessment of orphaned and injured wildlife; and identification of plants and wildlife in Cherokee County.

Thanks to many generous donations, both large and small, the Cherokee County Conservation Board was able to add 78.23 acres to Martin's Access in 2008. Much of the boundary fence has now been built, 17 acres of native tall-grass prairie reconstruction has been planted, and about 2 miles of horse/hiking trails have been opened through the new property.

The next steps will bring water and electricity to the new area, followed by modern campsites and cabins. Tree and shrub plantings, a playground, wildlife viewing areas, prairie landscapes and more are set to follow, pending availability of funds.

The area is open for public hunting, hiking and horseback riding. Funds and assistance are still needed for development of new recreational facilities on a portion of the new property, including a campground, cabins, playground, trailhead parking, plantings, bird watching areas and much more.

For you outdoors-men and women, this is the time of the year to get out and enjoy all Cherokee County has to offer. For more information about the Cherokee County Parks, go to their website at www.cherokeecountyparks.com.

I'm sure my late father would be very pleased with the continued growth of the Cherokee County Parks.

Dan Whitney
Basic Biittner