Estherville Rotarians made a trip to the lodge at Fort Defiance State Park for their meeting Thursday to hear what improvements the Friends of Fort Defiance have been making in the park since the group formed a little over seven years ago.
Giving the presentation were Rotarians Dave Seylar and John Wittneben, respectively the current Friends president and vice president.
Seylar said the group started working on the Spring Creek Trail which extends from the native prairie area to School Section Creek, the main stream through the park. Seylar said the Spring Creek Trail was built to replace another trail west of the lodge that had washed out, leaving only boulders.
The Friends group also painted picnic tables and received a grant to replace more than 70 boards in the picnic tables.
Despite the fact that Fort Defiance has not had a ranger for more than 20 years, the Friends of Fort Defiance received the statewide Best Large Project Award in 2009. The following year, Steve Reighard, who worked hand-in-hand with the group for several years, was recognized as Ranger of the Year by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Fittingly, Reighard and the Friends nominated each other for the awards. The group has also worked on shoring up bridge abutments along School Section Creek and the DNR installed several dock sections as bridges over Spring Creek.
Seylar recounted electrical upgrades at the campground that the DNR had estimated would cost $35,000. With the assistance of Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative, Inman Electric and Valley Contracting, the Friends were able to get the work done for $8,000 - all in a half a day.
Other improvements include concrete benches throughout the park, paid for with an Emmet County Community Foundation grant.
The group is now working on putting a crushed limestone surface on the Whitetail Ridge Interpretive Trail. Seylar said the Friends have committed $2,500 in funds - with $500 of that coming from an Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative Round Up grant. The total project is estimated to come in at $8,000 to $10,000. The group also applied for an Emmet County Community Foundation grant to help pay for the project.
Wittneben said when completed, the Whitetail Ridge trail will be packed down so people will even be able to use strollers on it.
Seylar also noted the third annual Friends of Fort Defiance Day will be held Saturday, Sept. 28.
Anyone who would like to help lay gravel on the Whitetail Ridge Interpretive Trail may come to the park west parking lot at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 11.
Anyone who would like to join the Friends of Fort Defiance may send a check for $10 for either an individual or family membership to: Friends of Fort Defiance, P.O. Box 314, Estherville, IA 51334.
The group also has a long-term goal having modern restrooms and showers in the park campground to help attract more campers to the Estherville area.