The Friends of Fort Defiance have received the Outstanding Large Project Volunteer Award from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The group will receive the award in ceremonies Saturday, Nov. 8 at the Des Moines Botanical Center.
The local group received the award "for dedication and service to the Fort Defiance trails system." Iowa Department of Natural Resources Ranger Steve Reighard Sr. nominated the group.
"I'm just kind of overwhelmed," said Friends of Fort Defiance President John Wittneben. "It's really good for the group."
Since a year ago last summer, the group has built a half-mile trail from the native prairie area on the east side the park and along Spring Creek to its confluence with School Section Creek. The low-gradient trail follows gradually along the creek, avoiding washout problems typical of some older trails in the park.
Another trail, extending south from the native prairie area, was constructed this summer for equestrian use.
A third trail built this past summer extends from the former ranger's house to the west parking lot. Gary and LaVonne Phillips did most of the work on the trail. Phillips' conservation studies students at the Iowa Lakes Community College Estherville campus raised funds for a kiosk which students in the Iowa Lakes construction trades program at the Emmetsburg campus built. That trail will have interpretive points of interest featuring native plants and animals.
The DNR was scheduled to place four bridges over the new Spring Creek Trail this afternoon.
The Friends of Fort Defiance began with 12 members June 2006 and now has at least 112 members.
The friends group, with the assistance of a grant from the Emmet County Community Foundation, also produced a brochure early this year to promote the park.
The group is also working on upgrading the electrical system at the campground. Another possible future project is improved signage for the park.
Fort Defiance State Park, founded in 1930, covers 231 acres along and above School Section Creek which flows from the south end of Four Mile Lake to the Upper Des Moines River. The park is named for Fort Defiance which was built in 1862 to protect settlers from the Sioux uprising in Minnesota. Fort Defiance was originally on South Sixth Street where an office building is now located.
To join the Friends of Fort Defiance, send $5 for an individual membership or $10 for annual membership to Friends of Fort Defiance, Membership Committee, P.O. Box 314, Estherville, IA 51334.