Community members often want to know where their tax dollars are going and the Johnson County Conservation Board is eager to show them.
Since the voter-approved bond referendum was passed in 2008, the county conservation department has completed two projects using referendum funds and several more are poised to begin. The public measure secured $20 million over the span of 20 years for water improvement projects, preserving natural areas and building parks and trails.
Larry Gullett, executive director of the Johnson County Conservation Board, said there are plans to renovate three areas in Oxford’s F.W. Kent Park. Major improvements will be made to Kent Park beach including making it ADA accessible with improved restroom access and flatter, extended trails.
“Staff and the conservation board identified these two projects as high priorities that need to be addressed and it’s pretty obvious when you go out and assess the situation that they’re right,” Gullett said.
This winter a watershed assessment of the lake will be completed to improve the water quality, which has experienced excess algae in the past.
“It’s going to be the number one upgrade since the beach was built,” said Wade Schultz, the conservation board operations superintendent. “We’ve just been maintaining what was originally put in place and now we’re trying to bring it up to today’s standards.”
The small campground shower facilities and the park’s entrance and information center will also be upgraded. Gullett said the board has issued requests for proposals and will examine the responses over the next two months. An estimated cost has not been set for the upcoming projects.
Gullett said so far more than $480,000 from the referendum has been utilized for improvement projects, which with the help of more than $680,000 in REAP grant funding has helped the referendum funds go further.
The board is holding three public input sessions to unveil their plans and completed projects throughout October beginning with today’s session at the North Liberty Community Center. Naturalist Brad Freidhof said officials have held public events to showcase completed projects, but the meetings are an opportunity to bring residents together to give feedback.
“This is the first public session where we say, ‘hey, we’re a few years down the road, where do you think we’re at? These are things we’re going forward with, what do you think about that?’” he said.
The board has completed two projects, acquiring the 80-acre Ciha Fen preserve and constructing 1.3 miles of the Clear Creek Trail. Future plans are to extend the trail to Oxford and potentially Amana. Extension of the Mehaffey Bridge Trail and the Hoover Trail are also in the works.