Posts tagged prairie

April events (and two late March additions)

Area events for late March/April 2009. If you know of others in the coming weeks, add a comment below or send an email to cindy.hadish@gazcomm.com

 

Sat. March 28 – 1-3 p.m., Grant Wood Elementary School gym, 1930 Lakeside Dr., Iowa City – Building your home’s curb appeal: free landscaping seminar shows what it takes. Now that spring has arrived, you may have noticed that the nicer the weather gets, the worse your lawn starts to look. A little yard work may help spruce things up. If you’re interested in learning more about how to improve the appearance of your property and the curb appeal of your home, plan to attend a series of informational presentations. There is no charge to attend, and door prizes will be given away each hour. Presentations will include Curb Appeal, Easy-to-Care-For Landscaping, and information on the Iowa City Area Association of Realtors (ICAAR) Tool Shed, a garden tool-loaning program.  This event is sponsored by ICAAR Fair Housing Ambassadors, Iowa City Landscaping, Grant Wood Neighborhood Association and the City of Iowa City Neighborhood Services Division. It was funded in part by a City of Iowa City PIN grant (Program for Improving Neighborhoods) awarded to the Grant Wood Neighborhood Association.
For more information, contact Marcia Bollinger, Neighborhood Services Coordinator, at 356-5237 or e-mail Marcia-bollinger@iowa-city.org.

 

Tues., March 31 – 1-3 p.m., Converting a traditional planter to adapt to no-tilled fields isn’t as costly and difficult as some might think. The Iowa Learning Farm is hosting a planter clinic at Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Rapids, to demonstrate how to convert to a no-till planter. The clinic will include a presentation by local NRCS staff about the benefits of no-till and residue management, a demonstration by Mark Hanna, Iowa State University Extension Agricultural Engineer, on how to convert to a conventional planter to a no-till planter and a panel discussion with farmers who practice no-till. The clinic will be held at 6301 Kirkwood Blvd. SW at the Tippie Beef Education Center arena, located on the southeast side of campus.  The planter is the key for no-tillage as it is likely the only machinery that moves the soil for seed placement. Seed depth and seed-to-soil contact are keys to emergence when planting through residue, says Hanna. The benefits of no-till are numerous. Equipment needs are minimal, labor costs are reduced, and there is less soil compaction when field passes are eliminated. Also organic matter builds in the soil over time. The farmer panel at this clinic may address some of these issues and how they overcame the barriers to no-till. The planter clinic is open to the public and there is no charge for the event. Registration begins at 12:30.  To RSVP or for more information about the clinic, contact Farm Conservation Liaison Erin Harpenau, 515/509-4768, email: erinharp@iastate.edu

Wed. April 1 –  6 p.m.,  Hiawatha Public Library, 150 W. Willman St., Starting Garden Transplants. Linn County Master Gardener Zora Ronan discusses growing vegetable and flower transplants successfully at home. Call (319) 393-1414.

Thurs., April 2 – 7 p.m., Tiny Gardens, Lots of Food. Are you interested in less expensive food that is also fresher and safer? Join Judy Kash at the Indian Creek Nature Center, 6665 Otis Rd. SE, Cedar Rapids, for suggestions and encouragement for growing some of your own food—even with limited garden space, time, money, and experience. Explore ideas for combining production and beauty in your new edible landscape. For questions or to register, call 362-0664. Member fee for this program is $5, nonmembers are $8.

 

Fri., April 3- Sat., April 4, The largest All-Iowa horticulture exposition in 100 years will be held in Ottumwa, Iowa at the Bridge View Conference Center.  The exposition, billed as the state fair of horticulture, is sponsored and coordinated by the Iowa State Horticultural Society, and supported by over 20 in-state horticulture associations and Iowa State University Extension. Nearly 100 vendors are expected to exhibit plants, art, garden supplies, and lawn equipment.  A wine village featuring Iowa wineries is also planned.  Additionally, the Expo will feature three concurrent educational seminar tracks featuring experts from around the state and region.  Topics will cover the gamut of horticultural specialties including honey production, growing herbaceous perennials, panel sessions of wine and arboriculture experts, rain gardens, organic lawn care, sustainability in the home garden, children’s gardening, and much more.  The Expo will offer anyone, novice to professional to engage in Iowa’s diverse and vibrant horticulture industry. Elvin McDonald, renowned horticultural author and former editor-at-large for Better Homes & Gardens® will be the keynote speaker for the inaugural All-Iowa Horticulture Exposition on April 3.  His lecture “Why I Love to Garden” will begin at 10:00 AM. Twenty-four breakout sessions on Friday and Saturday will offer attendees a wide variety of topical information that showcases the diversity of Iowa horticulture and gardening.  Top speakers for these sessions include Susan Appleget Hurst, senior associate editor at Better Homes & Gardens® and Kathleen Ziemer, known throughout the area as “the butterfly lady”.  A number of ISU Extension personnel will also be present including Dr. Jeff Iles, Dr. Eldon Everhart, Dr. Cindy Haynes, Dr. Patrick O’Malley, Dr. Nick Christians, Dr. Kathleen Delate, Andy Larson, and Dennis Portz.  Please visit www.iowahort.org for more information about speakers, topics, and times.  Single and two-day registration packages are available.  Visit www.iowahort.org for registration forms or contact your local ISU Extension Office.  For more information call 641-683-6260.

Sun., April 5 – 2 p.m., Chickens in the Yard. Before the advent of industrial agriculture and long distance food shipping, many families kept small flocks of chickens in backyards… even in the city. Join Indian Creek Nature Center Director Rich Patterson to learn how you can do the same. “In this day and age when incomes are stretched thin and costs are high the Nature Center is hosting a series of programs that may help people become more self sufficient in food,” said Patterson. Discover how to convert table scraps and garden weeds into delicious eggs. Learn the ins and outs of keeping a few chickens for fun and food. The member fee for this program is $5, nonmember fee is $8. Please call 362-0664 with any questions or to register for the program.

Tues., April 7 – 6:30-8:30 p.m., Using Prairie Wildflowers and Native Grasses in Iowa Landscapes, Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Hall Room 234, 6301 Kirkwood Blvd SW, Cedar Rapids. Neil Diboll will present the process of establishing prairie gardens and meadows using either plants or seeds, in both small and large venues.  He will highlight the top prairie wildflower and grasses for landscape use, along with specific step by step procedures for achieving success.  Diboll is a Prairie Ecologist for Prairie Nursery and produces native plants and seeds and designs native landscapes.  Since he began in 1982, he as devoted his efforts to championing the use of prairie plants, as well as native trees, shrubs and wetland plants, in contemporary American landscapes.  The session is free.  See web site: www.extension.iastate.edu/linn

Wed. April 8 – 6 p.m., Hiawatha Public Library, Garden Lighting. Why only enjoy the beauty during the day? You don’t have to be an electrician to be able to enhance your garden in the evening!  Linn County Master Gardener Deb Walser will discuss placement, types of lighting, and transformer options – let there be lite!

 

 

 

Wed. April 8- 8 a.m.-7 p.m. and Thurs. April 9, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Mount Vernon. Come get dirty down on the farm while learning from an expert how to construct a hoophouse. Practical Farmers of Iowa is hosting a two day hoophouse training build workshop at Laura Krouse’s Abbe Hills Farm near Mount Vernon. Adam Montri will lead the workshop. Hoophouses are structures that extend the season on fruit and vegetable farms by providing a protected environment. This training build will address hoophouse construction through an actual build of a 35 foot by 96 foot double poly hoophouse. Participants will learn techniques and tips to efficiently and effectively build a hoophouse, and will have opportunities to ask questions related to design and construction of the hoophouse as well as how to grow vegetables 12 months out of the year without supplemental light or heating. Wednesday will start with a light breakfast at 8:00 a.m., and the workshop will begin at 8:30. Participants will break at noon for lunch. Meals and refreshments will be provided, including dinner at 7:00 p.m. when work is done for the day. Thursday will commence at 8:00 a.m. with a light breakfast. The workshop begins at 8:30. Lunch will be served at noon, and the field day will end at 4:30. Adam Montri is the Outreach Coordinator for the Michigan State University Student Organic Farm. He works with farmers around the state on year-round vegetable production in hoophouses through on-farm economic research projects, one-on-one production consultations, and hoophouse training builds in rural and urban sites. He and his wife Dru and daughter Lydia own and operate Ten Hens Farm, a year-round farm, in Bath, MI.  Laura Krouse and her summer workers on Abbe Hills Farm produce vegetables for a 200-family CSA from June through October. She hopes the addition of the hoophouse will extend the garden season until Christmas. Laura also grows seed for an open pollinated variety of corn that has been selected on the 72-acre farm since 1903. A number of soil conservation and water quality practices have been established, including a restored upland wetland surrounded by native prairie. Primarily chemical-free practices are used to manage soil fertility and pests. Directions to Abbe Hills Farm: 825 Abbe Hills Road, Mount Vernon. From Highway 30 and Highway 1 south of Mt. Vernon: Go north at the 4-way stop of Highways 30 and 1. Go uptown to the stoplight. Turn left and go west to 8th Ave/ X20. You will be in front of Cornell College. Turn right and go north a little more than 1 mile out of town. Turn left and go west on Abbe Hills Road a little more than 1 mile. There are two red sheds on the north side of the road (and soon to be a big HOOPHOUSE). The address is 825 Abbe Hills Road. From Highway 1 north of Mt. Vernon: At the stoplight in downtown Mt. Vernon, turn right and go west to 8th Ave/ X20. You will be in front of Cornell College. Turn right and go north a little more than 1 mile out of town. Turn left and go west on Abbe Hills Road a little more than 1 mile. There are two red sheds on the north side of the road (and soon to be a big HOOPHOUSE). The address is 825 Abbe Hills Road. This field day is free, and everybody is welcome. RSVP is required by April 3 to Sally Worley, sally@practicalfarmers.org, (515)232-5661.

Fri., April 10 – 8:30 p.m., Spring Moon Walk, Indian Creek Nature Center. Enjoy the smells, sounds, and sights of a springtime evening on the trails. Walk to a high point of the Nature Center to view the moonlit landscape below. Adults: M: $3, NM: $5. Children: $1.

 

Sat., April 11 – 1:30 p.m., Wickiup Hill Outdoor Learning Center, 10260 Morris Hills Rd., Toddville, Iowa. Earth Month Wildflower Walk. Enjoy a leisurely woodland walk, celebrate spring and learn ways to have less impact on our planet. Cost: $2.50/adult, $1/child 16 and under or $5/family.

319.892.6485

Sat., April 11 and Sun., April 12 – 11 a.m., to 5 p.m., Easter Open House, Noelridge Greenhouse, Cedar Rapids. Features aquarium display by the Eastern Iowa Aquarium Association and Indian Creek Nature Center displays, along with a beekeeper. Free plant for first 500 children under age 12.

 

Tues., April 14 – 6:30-8:30 p.m., Don’t Fence Me In – Creating Garden Rooms Without Walls, Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Hall Room 234, 6301 Kirkwood Blvd SW, Cedar Rapids. With colorful slides that Shirley Remes has taken of garden rooms in historic public gardens as well as delightful homeowner gardens, she will demonstrate how to create easy and affordable garden rooms in your own yard, large or small.  Dividing a landscape into garden rooms not only creates more enjoyable living space but solves practical space problems.  Photographer, journalist, lecturer and treasurer of the national Garden Writers Association, Remes is field editor for Better Homes and Gardens magazine and writes for Cottage Living, Organic Gardening and Victoria magazines. The session is free. See web site: www.extension.iastate.edu/linn

Tues., April 14 – 5:30-6:30 p.m., Culver’s Garden Center & Greenhouse, 1682 Dubuque Road (Highway 151 East), Marion. Veggies and Herbs in Pots and Containers. The free seminar will focus on growing vegetables, herbs and more in containers in order to enjoy the benefits of homegrown produce, even in limited space. Participants are asked to RSVP by calling (319) 377-4195.

 

 

Wed. April 15 – 6 p.m., Hiawatha Public Library, Revitalizing Your Garden. For the novice or experienced gardener, this class covers beginning or re-working the soil prep, planting, transplanting, and pruning for your beds. Linn County Master Gardener Lori Klopfenstein will also cover tools, design principals, and “go to” resources for all your garden needs.

Sat., April 18 – 9:30 a.m., Earth Day Tree Planting, Indian Creek Nature Center. Help diversify the woods as part of a wetland restoration. Bring a shovel, wear old clothes, and be prepared to get dirty. Participate in a tree planting ceremony “on behalf of Sacred Mother Earth,” facilitated by Wha’la, a Cree man from Squamish Territory. The ceremony is a Chanupa or Pipe ceremony. He will offer songs and direction to us from his traditional way of life. Trees Forever Field Coordinator Matt Nachtrieb will demonstrate the best way to plant a tree. Free.

Sat., April 18 – 8:30 a.m., Herbert Hoover National Historic Site will kick off National Park Week with a spring restoration project in the 81-acre tallgrass prairie. Volunteers are needed to help remove weeds from a recent planting of native prairie grasses and flowers. Volunteers interested in helping at Herbert Hoover National Historic Site should contact Adam Prato at (319) 643-7855 by Friday, April 17. Dress for the weather and wear comfortable work clothes. Water, sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats are recommended. Meet at the Visitor Center at 8:30 a.m. for an orientation and to get signed up. Work in the prairie will be from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Herbert Hoover National Historic Site and the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum are in West Branch, Iowa at exit 254 off I-80.

Sat., April 18, Habitat for Humanity Restore Go Green expo., 725 N. Center Point Rd., Hiawatha.

Sat., April 18 – Creative Gardening Hands ON Workshops, Linn County Extension, 3279 7th Avenue, Suite 140, Marion, Iowa. Register and pre-pay materials fee  by April 10th, call: 319-377-9839

9:00am–10:30am • Twig Art

Have fun using garden prunings to create a pot trellis. The project will include the pot, soil and plants.  The participant will supply a hand pruner, wire cutter, needle nose pliers (optional) and scissors. Shelby Foley, Linn County Master Gardener, leads this class. Materials fee: $10 (due at time of registration) Class is limited to 20 participants.

11:00am–12:30pm • Build a Toad House

Parents, delight your child with this fun filled morning. Accompany your child as they enjoy the hands-on experience of making a mosaic toad house with Linn County Master Gardener, Karla McGrail. Materials fee: $10 (due at time of registration) Class is limited to 25 participants, age 7 and up.

1:00pm–3:00pm • Building A Gourd Birdhouse

Members of the Iowa Gourd Society will share their expertise and provide sturdy gourds for this fun project. All materials will be furnished to construct and decorate a unique, functional birdhouse. Won’t it be fun to watch the birds flock to their new home this spring? Materials fee: $30 (due at time of registration) Class is limited to 25 participants.

Sat., April 18 – 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Cedar Rapids Linn County Solid Waste Agency – 1954 County Home Rd.  Marion,  Earth Day Dumpster Dive

 Bring a load of waste to the agency and let the staff show you what can be recycled.  All loads chosen as recycled, will be recycled and disposed of free of charge.   No appointment necessary and Linn County Residents can bring their items from 10am to 2pm.

Sun., April 19 – 3-5 p.m.,

Iowa City Environmental Film Festival, Iowa City Public Library, Room A, 123 South Linn Street, Iowa City. Blue Gold:  World Water Wars Host:  FAIR!  Film Overview:  www.bluegold-worldwaterwars.com In today’s world, corporate giants force developing countries to allow privitization of their public water supply.  As water enters the global market place, corporate giants, private investors and corrupt governments vie for control of our fresh water supply.  A line is crossed when water becomes a commodity.  So the stage is set for world water wars, with a new geo-political map and power structure, and the possibility of military involvement.  The film shows numerous worldwide examples of people fighting for their basic right to water.  As Maude Barlow proclaims, “This is our revolution, this is our war.”  Will we survive? Based on the groundbreaking book, “Blue Gold:  The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World’s Water” by Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke. Winner of the Vancouver International Film Festival Film Audience Award.

Wed. April 22 – 6 p.m., Hiawatha Public Library, Container Gardens. Container gardens do not have to be three geranium, asparagus fern and vinca vines. Come see what can be done with the newest annuals for your containers. Linn County Master Gardener Deb Walser’s own containers will be featured along with planting instructions. You will never have a plain container again.

Wed., April 22 – noon-4 p.m., Wickiup Hill Outdoor Learning Center, Earth Day Guided Hikes. AmeriCorps Naturalist Sarah Hinzman will lead a 45 minute spring-themed hike every hour on the hour beginning at noon. The last hike of the day is at 4:00 p.m. Meet her at the kiosk area on the lower end of the long sidewalk. Donations accepted.

Wed., April 22 – 4 p.m., Hiawatha Public Library: Kids and Worms: Composting. First-Fourth graders, get you hands dirty and learn how composting with worms can help our Earth. Space is limited to thirty kids 150 West Willman St., Hiawatha, Iowa  319.393.1414

Thurs., April 23 – 6 p.m., Welcome the changing of the seasons by joining the Brucemore gardeners for the Spring Landscape Hike. Brucemore, Iowa’s only National Trust Historic Site, is located at 2160 Linden Drive SE, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The 90-minute hike will emphasize the renewal of spring through the sights and sounds found on the Brucemore estate. Experience a sea of budding bluebells, wildflowers sprouting, and the pond awakening after winter’s slumber. Brucemore gardeners take participants off the beaten path into the natural areas of the 26-acre estate. The tour will explore current issues of preservation and public use as well as the seasonal chores spring requires. Hear stories of the spring activities of the Brucemore families, like picking wildflowers for May Day baskets, and much more. Participants will have ample opportunity to ask questions and seek advice about their own gardens. Admission is $10.00 per person and $7.00 per Brucemore member. Space is limited, call (319) 362-7375 to reserve your spot or register online at www.brucemore.org

Sat., April 25 – 6-8 p.m., Mid American AeroSpace – 280 Blairs Ferry Rd. NE, Recycle in Style. Join area resale shops for a fashion show like no other.  All models will be sporting clothing from consignment, thrift and resale shops.  Get some great money saving ideas at this one of a kind event.  Ticket information available by calling 319-377-5290.

Tues., April 28 – 6 p.m., Natives: Planting, Caring, and Options Workshop. Spring has arrived! Learn easy and effective ways to “go green” in your gardens and landscapes this year by utilizing native Iowa plants. Planting indigenous flora is the most effective way to create sustainable and healthy gardens and landscapes. Join Master Gardener Becki Lynch for a native Iowa plants and prairie history workshop,  in the Brucemore Visitor Center. Brucemore’s own gardens and grounds were originally designed in the 1900s by O.C. Simonds, a founder of the Prairie School landscape movement, who advocated a strong conservation ethic in landscape design. Simonds planted local forbs and grasses to develop the Brucemore grounds into “outdoor rooms.” Using indigenous flora exemplifies environmental stewardship and helps to curb natural resource depletion. Planting with natives is also a great way to preserve Iowa’s unique prairie history. Lynch shares how to identify and incorporate indigenous plants in your own gardens and landscapes. Join the many Iowa gardeners who are preserving our beautiful Iowa heritage. $15 per person and $10 per Brucemore member. Space is limited call (319) 362-7375 or register online now.

Wed. April 29 – 6 p.m., Hiawatha Public Library, Lawns Green With Envy. Linn County Master Gardener Jerry Schmidt will give you advice on how to turn your grass into a lawn.  Find out the best ways to rid your lawn of weeds, mushrooms, bare spots, and all those digging critters.

 

 

 

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America’s Lost Landscape: The Tallgrass Prairie

The Linn County Extension Office passed along the following about a free film showing next week:

 

   Learn about our heritage and be inspired to plant your own prairie as Linn County Extension Master Gardeners welcome you to a free presentation of America’s Lost Landscape: The Tallgrass Prairie at 6:30 p.m. Thurs., Feb 19, 2009, at Linn County Extension, 3279 7th Ave. Ste 140, Marion, Iowa. 

   America’s Lost Landscape tells the rich and complex story of one of the most astonishing alterations of nature in human history.  Prior to Euro-American settlement in the 1820s, one of the major landscape features of North America was 240 million acres of tallgrass prairie. But between 1830 and 1900 – in the space of a single lifetime – the tallgrass prairie was steadily transformed to farmland.

   It examines the record of human struggle, triumph, and defeat that prairie history exemplifies, including the history and culture of America’s aboriginal inhabitants. The story of how and why the prairie was changed by Euro-American settlement is thoughtfully nuanced. The film also highlights prairie preservation efforts and explores how the tallgrass prairie ecosystem may serve as a model for a sustainable agriculture of the future.

   The extraordinary cinematography of prairie remnants, original score and archival images are all delicately interwoven to create a powerful and moving viewing experience about the natural and cultural history of America. If you have any questions about the presentation, call Linn County Extension at (319)377-9839.

   The film was produced in association with the University of Northern Iowa, its Foundation and the Tallgrass Prairie Center.

 

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Winter Gardening – part II

The following is Part II of information on the Winter Gardening Fair 2009 by Linn County Master Gardener, Becki Lynch:

 

One week closer to the Fair!  I want to highlight some of the topics and speakers we are offering this year. 

 

First, we have numerous repeats of seminars about those beautiful perennials and other plants and trees that some could not get into last year – Daylilies, Lawns, Garden Lighting, Hillside Gardening, Pruning Trees and Shrubs, Ornamental Grasses, Using Herbs, Composting, and Prairie Gardens are just a few.

 

Second, we’ve added additional seminars specifically about Vegetable Gardening, a topic people requested last year in our evaluations.  Vegetable Gardening Problems and Solutions, Tomatoes, Peppers, and Salsa, Food Preservation, and The Kitchen Garden are all available.

 

Third, we’ve added a variety of new seminars that range from Bee Keeping, Tree Identification, Rain Gardens, House Plants, Tropical Plants, and Ponds, Gardening with Kids, to Everlastings – to name a few – Whew!

 

And finally, we have hands-on seminars that allow you to learn and participate directly in making garden related items:   The Garden Journal, Plant Propagation, Creating Nosegays, Terra Cotta Fountains, and Toad Houses are all examples.

 

And that’s not all – I urge all of you to go to www.extension.iastate.edu/linn to look at all the offerings available.   Simply click on Winter Gardening Fair on that page to see the full program, and instructions on how to register.

 

Overall, we have a selection of over 45 individual seminars, something for everyone!  The Fair will be held on February 7, 2009, with a back-up date of February 21, just in case of bad weather.  Hope to see you there!

 

Linn County Master Gardener, Becki Lynch.

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Hunting the elusive skunk cabbage

skunkcabbage.jpgOK, it’s not really a hunt, but the Indian Creek Nature Center has scheduled a hike Sunday, March 30, to search for skunk cabbage, one of the earliest and most unusual wildflowers. The event at 2 p.m. that day will take hikers to Bena Brook’s valley, also home to liverworts and shining club moss. The nature center notes that hikers should wear boots and be prepared for off-trail hiking through tall grass and possible mud in this search for Iowa’s seldom seen but intriguing plants.

Also this month, the center will host a burn school on Sat. March 29, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Participants will learn about the history and role of fire in the prairie, how to set goals and develop burn plans, safe techniques for prescribed fires, fire equipment and how to conduct a prairie burn. 

The burn school cost is $10 for members and $15 for people who are not members of the nature center. The skunk cabbage hike is $3 for members and $5 for non-members. For more information, call (319) 362-0664.

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Green space saved???

Dave Smith, parks superintendent for the city of Cedar Rapids, shared some news with me that might spell the end to thoughts of selling land the city owns next to Squaw Creek Park.

Cedar Rapids has 301 acres near Highway 13 and 100, most of which is used for Gardner Golf Course. Just under 40 acres are in prairie land, along with space leased by the city to gardeners. The Cedar Rapids City Council was mulling the sale of those 40 acres to fund renovations to the Twin Pines Golf Course, but that might be out of the question.

Smith told me that the land was purchased with federal money under the Housing and Urban Development’s Open Space Act – at a cost of $194,417 back on Aug. 5, 1963. The property was purchased from a private landowner named Julius Bigger, according to the documents. Under that act, which the federal government continues to monitor, if the city chose to sell the land, it would have to replace the open space with equally sized and equally valued land. That would mean finding 40 acres or so elsewhere and purchasing it in today’s dollars, not the value of the land as it was in 1963. So really, the city would have nothing to gain, and probably much to lose, in selling the property.

Smith gave credit to the visionary city leaders at that time for having the foresight to obtain green space for its residents. “We want to stick with that original agreement,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how long ago it was.”

Bravo.

The City Council plans to discuss the Twin Pines Task Force’s report regarding funding options at the council meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday (March 5) at City Hall. It might be worth it to attend and see if the option of selling green space – maybe elsewhere – arises.

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It’s SUMMER!!! (just click here)

Silly me. I invited the Cedar Rapids City Council and the Golf Course Task Force to take a look at the city gardens and prairie land near Squaw Creek Park in the middle of February.

Right now, the view would be similar to what we’re seeing everywhere: snow, snow and more snow. And even though all the school snow days are getting a bit old,  my 10-year-old son took advantage of one of them to come up with a slideshow, showing scenes from our leased city garden from summers past. 

To remember what summer is like, just click below.

see slideshow here

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Another so-called brilliant idea to sell green space

thumbnail1.jpgI see city councilman Kris Gulick wants Cedar Rapids to consider selling property it owns outside the city limits. And he has eyes on a place of refuge not only for gardeners, but for a rare abundance of wildlife that is getting crowded into ever-shrinking parcels of land.

What possible value could those 90 or so acres have next to Squaw Creek Park if they aren’t part of the 18-hole golf course? It’s only prairie grass, planted next to garden plots where city dwellers like me can lease space that we don’t have at home. Along with a summers-long supply of fresh vegetables for our families, a sense of community and friendships have grown.

To Gulick and others, what better place to smack down a new housing development. To me, it’s where my sons and other city kids have a chance to connect with nature. The  prairie grasses are home to quail, ground squirrels and numerous other critters.  I’ve seen dozens of our state bird, the goldfinch, descend on the sunflowers my sons grow at the city leased gardens –  birds that, for some reason, no longer come to our backyard in Cedar Rapids. 

I have shadowy “Bigfoot-style” video footage of a tiny gray fox that crept near the gardens on two  occasions and shot pictures of an unusual snake that I wanted my naturalist sister to identify.

I saw a whole field lit up with lightning bugs that rivaled the best fireworks display that the Cedar Rapids Freedom Fest has ever paid for and an early evening that I like to remember as the night of the dragonflies.

Nearby, in some scrub trees that are obviously worthless to the city, I watched a brilliant deep blue bird fly back and forth that my grandmother helped me identify as an indigo bunting, one that even she has rarely seen in her 90-plus years of bird watching. If you’ve never seen one, you’ve missed one of Iowa’s most stunning birds. If the acres next to the park become another development, our chances of seeing another indigo bunting become about as rare as hitting a hole-in-one. 

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