The Water and Land Legacy Bond approved by voters in 2012 helped to bring $10 million worth of projects to Polk County in 2013.

Parks will see the most investment during the first three years of the 10-year, $50 million bond program, but water quality, land acquisition and trail expansions are also priorities, Polk County Conservation officials said.

“We have accomplished some things we would not have been able to without the support from the public. That’s the most important thing,” said Loren Lown, Parks and Natural Areas Planning Administrator for Polk County.

Areas that saw major investments in 2013 include:

• Jester Park, where $2.38 million was spent on construction of four modern cabins and the design and site preparation for a new Conservation Center.

• Easter Lake Park, where the 1.75-mile first phase of the Mark C. Ackelson Trail was completed, including renovation of a covered bridge, at a cost of $1.14 million.

• Thomas Mitchell Park, where $827,000 was spent on stream bed and bank stabilization along Camp Creek. Improvements to a low water crossing at the park will separate pedestrian and vehicle traffic.

Other work at the park included construction of an accessible trail, two fishing piers and an expansion of the campground, totaling about $219,000.

• Fort Des Moines Park, where $591,000 was spent. The pond is being dredged and work is underway on stabilization structures and wetland construction meant to improve water quality, fisheries and recreation opportunities.

“They are doing things at all the parks, which I think is important,” said Sue Tew-Warming, a member of the Jester Park Conservation Center Advisory Committee. “I think they really have made an effort to get public input and listen to the public, too,” Tew-Warming said.

Before the November 2012 vote, county officials said they had identified about $19.9 million worth of projects for the first three years of borrowing.

“We are committed to implementing the Polk County Water and Land Legacy projects efficiently and with the quality the public expects,” Polk County Conservation Director Dennis Parker said.

Conservation officials did spend more than anticipated in the first year, in large part because they were able to acquire more land than they expected and completed preliminary plans for upcoming projects.

The county spent about $2.7 million on more than 700 acres, including the Camp Creek Corridor between Runnells and Mitchellville, the Beaver Creek Greenbelt Woodland in northeast Polk county, five properties in the Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt and property adjacent to Yellow Banks Park. “It surprised us,” Lown said. “With landowners, oftentimes, the land’s not technically for sale, but it is. We’re looking primarily at trying to pick up those pieces that will be important into the future for the additions to our parks.”

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