Bob Hess

Bob Hess, of Clinton, empties wastewater at Rock Creek Park and Campground near Camanche. Hess, along with his wife Sharon, are campground hosts at the facility. The campground has been full during the summer, Hess said.

Scott Levine/Clinton Herald
Herald Staff Writer

Online photos and information on Clinton County parks have drawn reservations from as far away as California and Ontario, Canada, Walt Wickham, director of the Clinton County Conservation Board reported this month.

“I’m sure those campers would have gone elsewhere if we hadn’t had the online reservation system,”   he said. “To date we have received more than $10,000 in reservations from the statewide MyCountyParks website; $8,500 was for Rock Creek and $1,500 for Eden Valley.”

 Rock Creek ranger Brad Taylor reported the campground was full for the 4th of July weekend, except for three sites that were still wet from when floodwater came back up.

ECO TOURISM UPDATE         

 Wickham reported  a $250,000 grant from the Howe Foundation (established by long-time board member Dayton Howe) toward a 9,000-gallon aquarium that will feature Mississippi River aquatic life in the Eco Tourism Center now under construction in Rock Creek Park. Earlier, a $150,000 grant was received from the Clinton County Development Association toward the aquarium and other displays. Estimated cost of the aquarium is $225,000. It is expected to take five months to create.

Jim Haring, chairman of the Conservation Foundation, reported the bottom deck of the Eco Center is on and pouring of the second floor is imminent. The loops for the geothermal system are completed.

Another report was not so great. Bids were opened on a modified plan for the Eco Center septic system. The first bid, $125,090, received in June, had been rejected because it was $40,830 more than the architect’s estimate. At the July meeting, three bids were received with a spread of only $637 between the highest and lowest. The contract was awarded to Tschiggfrie of Dubuque with the low bid of $121,369.

WHY BUY A BOAT?

Board member Judie Petersen said she had been asked why the group was considering buying a special rescue boat when there are other boats available.

Wickham explained that while the Camanche Fire Department and the DNR also have boats, “It is often difficult to get ahold of the DNR, as they cover a large area and are short staffed.

“The problems that come up are response time and knowledge of the local river,” he said. “Since we have staff on site 24/7 at Rock Creek,  and they are all avid boaters, this isn’t a problem for us. Knowledge of the river especially comes into play on the Wapsipinicon, where things like submerged tree trunks and sandbars can be dangerous obstacles, especially after dark or in bad weather.”

The issue of buying a rescue boat came up after Taylor was called out three times in one week to assist in river searches.

Naturalist Jessica Steines reported that during May the Conservation’s three naturalists and a summer intern provided events for school groups from Preston, Andrew, Olin and Midland in addition to 20 events for Clinton County schools.

The summer intern, Jessica Hepker, who has now returned to Iowa State University, reported that she re-routed a trail at Sherman Park and added interpretive signs as her special project.