An equestrian trail in the 198-acre McAndrews Wildlife Area north of Lost Nation has been approved by the Clinton County Conservation Board for a trial period.

The trail was requested several weeks ago by Jed Hinz and Emily Silverstein on behalf of interested riders.

Director Walt Wickham said he checked with six counties and the DNR, which have trails, about their experiences. Then board members Gloria Friederichsen and Jeff Beckwith met with Hinz and Silverstein, Park Officer Chip Brown and Wickham at the site May 26 to discuss a route and rules.

If the trial period, which will take place in July, is successful, it is planned to have the trail open June through August, to avoid hunting seasons.

A season permit will cost $10 and riders must have the permit in their possession while riding and have a copy in the window of their vehicle. Horses, mules and donkeys will only be allowed on the trail. Hours will be sunrise to sunset. The trail will be for recreational use only — no commercial use will be allowed.

No alcohol will be allowed. All trash must be carried out by the riders.

Other rules will be provided when a permit is purchased at the Conservation Board office at 2308 255th Street, Grand Mound. Daily use would be allowed for $2 per day by signing an envelop and depositing it, with the fee, in an “iron ranger.”

The conservation staff will mow the trails, erect signs and enlarge the parking lot to allow for horse trailers.

$50,000 grant for displays

Wickham announced last week that a $50,000 grant has been received from the Clinton County Development Association toward the cost of educational displays in the Mississippi River Eco Tourism Center which is scheduled to be built in Rock Creek Park.

Jim Haring, president of the Clinton County Conservation Foundation, said architects’ drawings for the center are ready and only some environmental permits are needed before construction can begin, which may be this fall.

Blue Heron eco-cruises

The season for the Blue Heron pontoon boat Eco Cruises on the Mississippi River backwater and main channel of Pool 14 is in full swing — with one change.

The U. S. Coast Guard has notified the Conservation Department it must have a licensed pilot operating the boat in order to charge.

Therefore, the  conservation board has decided to eliminate the set price for tours and will suggest freewill donations ($5 per person or more)  to the Rock Creek Environmental Education fund.

A standard cruise, from the Rock Creek Marina,  lasts about one-and-a-half hours and offers outdoor education about the river, its wildlife, recreation and industries.

Capacity of the Blue Heron is 30 adults, or 40 including children. There is a 10 passenger minimum for a cruise. Reservations may be made by calling the Rock Creek Camp Store at (563) 259-1876.

Motel tax on a cabin?

Wickham informed the conservation board that the county conservation departments must pay five-percent hotel/motel tax for cabin rentals to the state department of revenue.

This goes back to July 2009, and the county must pay $432.73 for Rock Creek rentals and $203.73 for Eden Valley.

Board members approved adding the five-percent tax to the rental fee for cabins. That made the new rates $31.50 for small cabins to $47.25 for larger ones.

Personnel changes

The board accepted the resignation of Eric Wright, who has been park ranger at Rock Creek Park for five years. He has accepted a position as conservation officer with the Iowa DNR.

He will be replaced by Brad Taylor, who has also held the park ranger position at Rock Creek.

A new position with the conservation department, that of Natural Resource Technician, will be filled by Darin Voss, who will be transferring from the roadside department under the county engineer.

Voss will be paid $17.46 per hour.