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Environmental Education Staff Receives Award
April 2024

Naturalists Billie Wille and Julie Fosado were presented with an award for Excellence in Environmental Education from the Iowa Association of Naturalists (IAN) and the Iowa Conservation Education Coalition (ICEC). The award is for 2023 Outstanding Environmental Education for an organization with two or less naturalists. Congratulations Naturalists!



Nature Center Parking Lot Receives a Facelift
October 2023

This past fall the Water’s Edge Nature Center gravel parking lot received a major upgrade with the hard surfacing of the entire parking lot and entrance lane. The entire project was funded by the Water’s Edge Nature Center Foundation (WENCF). The WENCF was the beneficiary in the estate of Lavon Lindhorst. Lavon and her husband Ralph were early supporters of the construction of the nature center and the opportunities it would provide Kossuth County residents. Their love of nature brought them to Smith Lake frequently to watch birds during migration and to check on the success of fisherman. The first big project, as requested in her will was to hard surface the nature center parking lot. The WENCF and KCCB were pleased to honor her request. The end result is a wonderful asphalt parking lot for visitors and staff to utilize when visiting the nature center.









Hunter Education Field Day
September 2022

On September 17th, the KCCB sponsored a Hunter Education Field Day, which was held at the Ikes facility across from Smith Lake. Students learned about Iowa hunting laws and regulations and also had the opportunity to shoot a shotgun and .22 rifles. All 22 students attending passed the course and can now purchase their own hunting license. Thanks to the Hunter Ed Volunteers and Ikes staff for making this class a success.


Above: Students learn how to safely cross a fence with a firearm.


Above: Students practice shooting clays with shotguns.


Above: Target shooting with .22 rifles


Patterson Wildlife Area Wetland Enhancement
March 2022

Last November two habitat improvement projects were completed at the Patterson Recreation and Wildlife Area east of Burt to enhance the wetland habitat.

One enhancement project consisted of repairing 3,175 feet of an existing dike on the east side of the East Fork of the Des Moines River. The dike creates a wetland basin of about 56 acres. The original dike was over 25 years old and had deteriorated due to recent flooding and animal damage. Improvements to the dike included hauling in 5,700 cubic yards of dirt to widen the top and stabilizing the slopes. In addition, rat wire was installed to minimize future animal damage, revetment stone was placed on critical erosion areas and the two existing water control structures were stabilized. This upgraded dike will now allow for the management of water levels to promote beneficial wetland plants. This will provide optimum brood cover for waterfowl in the spring and summer as well as loafing areas in the fall. In the winter, the rushes and cattails located within the basin provide habitat for a variety of wildlife species.
The second wetland enhancement project on the area involved the creation of a small wetland basin of around one half of an acre on the west side of the river. This spring both the west wetland basin and dike were seeded with native grasses and smartweed. This seeding will provide both food and cover for a variety of wildlife once established.

The contractor for the project was Erpelding Excavating Enterprise from Algona. A Wildlife Habitat Stamp Development Grant from the Iowa DNR provided major funding for this project. The “Partners for Wildlife” program administered through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also provided materials, technical assistance and grant funds for the project.


Above: Installing the rat wire on the side slope of the dike


Above: Revetment installed to prevent erosion from flooding


Above: Stabilized water control structure


Above: Wetland created on the west side of the river



New Rock-faced Fishing Jetty
November 2021

This past summer the Kossuth County Conservation Board added a new rock-faced jetty at the east shore of Smith Lake near the boat ramp. The jetty is approximately 15 feet wide and extends 75 feet out into the water. The new jetty will provide excellent fish habitat with the rock providing spawning areas as well as escape cover. This area is also a popular fishing location and will provide shoreline anglers another fishing opportunity. Reutzel Excavating of Burt constructed the project. The majority of funding for the project was provided through a Fish Habitat Stamp Grant from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Be sure to check it out the next time you are at the lake!




Sugar Shack Renovation
November 2020

This past fall renovations were completed at the Cozy Grove Sugar Shack located at the Smith Wildlife Area.  The original rustic shack was constructed by Slim Smith and his friends in 1949 and first used for the maple syrup operation in the spring of 1950. For the past 70 years it has served as the headquarters for the maple syrup operation. Over the years, time and weather had taken its toll on the structure and major improvements were required to continue using the facility for the annual maple syrup operation. 

The renovation included tearing down the existing building and starting over. Before demolition began, the original siding (side walls), which contained the historic handprints and dates, were first carefully labeled and removed by KCCB staff member Ryan Schmidt.

The new building constructed by Hjelmeland Builders, Inc. includes a concrete foundation, concrete floor and concrete stub walls. The foundation and stub walls were features that had not been present on the old structure, but were included in the renovation to add longevity and stability to the new shack. The wooden portion of the shack was constructed to replicate the original. Features on the newly constructed shack included 2”x 6” framed walls and roof trusses, red cedar siding with two-inch battens on the exterior walls, corrugated steel on the roof and a new triple lined chimney. All the windows and the entrance door on the new shack were constructed in the same location and have the same dimensions as the original shack. The original siding pieces, which include the historic handprints and dates will be placed back on the interior walls of the building at a later date.

Following completion of the project, the Hjelmeland Family informed the Conservation Board that the entire cost of the project would be donated. Kossuth County board members and staff were surprised and thrilled to receive this generous donation. The Conservation Board extends a heartfelt thank you to the Hjelmeland family.




Original Cozy Grove Sugar Shack build in 1949 by Slim Smith and his buddies.




Michael and John Hjelmeland stand in front of the completed New shack in Fall 2020.