Sunday, August 13, 2017

FOS Update --Happening At or To Shimek State Forest-8/13/17

Happening at or to Shimek State Forest

State Level Organizational changes...... Summary: Forestry has been disbanded –Shimek now under SE IA District Parks

In the last few weeks, there have been major changes to the DNR organizational structure that affect Shimek State Forest as well as Forester John Byrd and his crew. Many of you have already read that over the July 4th holiday weekend, the Iowa DNR Director Gipp disbanded the Forestry Bureau and retired or reassigned its leadership. Anticipated budget cuts to DNR were cited as the reason. The segments of Forestry have been disbursed in various other DNR Bureaus. The individual forests have been assigned to various Parks and Preserves Bureau offices. Shimek State Forest is assigned to Southeast Iowa District Parks under Tom Basten, who was already responsible for the campgrounds, in cooperation with the Shimek Forester. For the time being, there are no individual Forest staffing changes, no changes in responsibilities and certainly no increases in budgets for the State Forests. We all need to support both Forester John Byrd and Parks Supervisor Tom Basten as they work together to keep Shimek Forest improved and protected for future generations while still offering wonderful, accessible trails and excellent primitive campgrounds --- as it is today.

State Budgets......Summary: Major DNR cuts already and more looming. Speak to your legislators.

State lawmakers cut the DNR budget once again this year—cutting it $1.2 million earlier this year. The Governor now says she may call a special session later to act on “looming budget problems.”

In the opinion of your editor, the long term concern for both Parks and all the forests is whether there will be still further budget cuts to DNR. Watch your news for this. You may want to communicate your feelings on such matters in the future to the new Representative for District 82 ( which includes Van Buren and therefor the headquarters and a large part of Shimek Forest), Dr. Phil Miller and Representative Jerry Kearns of southern Lee County District 83 where the Lick Creek Unit is located as well as your own state representative if you live in another district. Our positive support of Shimek Forest could be very important.

Back on the ground in Shimek Forest.....

Summary: Trails and campgrounds in great shape thanks to DNR Crew

This spring, for the first time in 9 years –yes—that is for the first time in nine years--- Shimek State Forest was provided equipment money for one new piece of equipment for the entire forest. This was especially critical as the one little skid steer the forest had was (and is) inoperable (wearing out---needing several thousand dollars worth of repairs). So-- Forester Byrd selected and purchased as the Forest “Work Horse” a new heavier-duty skid steer, a John Deere 323E, that includes a front end serious- mow- everything Rotary Cutter. It is a much needed asset for management of the 9,000 acres of forest and and for the maintenance and support of the equestrian trails in the Lick Creek Unit . Shimek staff—especially Ben Hassman---have been putting it to good use. Part of that use has included mowing many of the equestrian trails (though some are too narrow or rough to use it). As a result, most trails that can be mowed have been mowed at this point, and since the drought has slowed the undergrowth, they are staying mowed for longer than usual. Downed trees have been removed promptly after Forester Byrd is notified since Shimek now has a functioning piece of equipment to do this with.

Shimek has also had exceptional Summer Staff in Ross O'Day and Susan Meinhardt who now work part-time, hopefully through the end of October. Those super clean toilet facilities, trimmed and swept up campgrounds are thanks to their hard work—the painted Bridge at Martin Pond, the rest of the tables painted that FOS did not get finished on the last work day—Thanks to Susan and Ross!

Forester Byrd and crew have also done some extra things this summer for us equestrians that have included more new hitching posts to replace some of the old ones, corrections to poor water crossings on the trails, and addition of water diversions along the trails to handle hoped-for future rains.

Despite the unsettled circumstances and frequent threats of less funding, Forester Byrd and Staff have stayed focused on doing the best possible job—and you can see it every time you go there.  See photos below of the new tie rails in the upper campground and of the repaired crossing where there was a very narrow deep ditch previously.

What we—the riders and Friends of Shimek can do or are doing.....

Summary: Help Out at the Next Scheduled Work Day

The August Group Work Day has been canceled. Join us on September 28th at 8:00 AM for the next FOS Group Work Day. More information will be sent later and be posted on FB and on the FOS blogspot..

Summary: Help Raise Funds for New Day Parking. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

FOS, working with Forester Byrd, has obtained a grant from the Lee County Charitable Fund for $5,000 to apply toward the cost of constructing two new day parking areas—one at each campground. The actual cost will be closer to $9,000 so we have a challenge to raise the $4,000 to assure the construction of these new parking areas on time. Needless to say, there will be no DNR money to apply toward this but Forester Byrd and his crew will provide much of the labor. Riders have been asking for these for several years---so now is the time to help us make it possible. The project will not begin until October 1 when the currently wooded area can be cleared. FOS is holding a Benefit Meal and Auction this November 4th. You can donate items to the auction and/or purchase items at the auction to help out.

Summary: Benefit Dinner and Auction Saturday, November 4, 2017
At River Valley Lodge 29080 Hawk Drive – Farmington, IA
Admission: $10.00

Hot Meal -smoked pulled pork with all the trimmings... with homemade desserts 5:00-6:30 p.m.
Silent Auction 5:00- 8:00 p.m.
Live Auction 6:30 p.m.
(western items, tack, art work, quilts, gift certificates, services, equine care products, other) All auctioned items will be either new or clean and repaired used items. Nothing dirty or broken will be auctioned.

All proceeds will be used by Friends of Shimek
to support improvements in the Lick Creek equine campgrounds and trails.
Questions, Donations or Help: Contact or 319 653 5323 or Need donated items by October 1, 2017. Facebook: Benefit Meal and Auctions for Friends of Shimek


Summary: Simple - Clean-up After Ourselves And Our Animals

Most riders are very good about civil behavior. We really appreciate their cooperation in cleaning up after themselves and not damaging our precious resources. ---but we have a few $%^$$%^

So we'll spell it out--

On the trails---When you are riding—be sure to carry out all the cans and trash you carry in with you. If you can do so—help remove some of the cans and trash that some have left behind. These are scattered about through the forest and if you can carry a bag on the horse to hold cans and remove a few each time, we could get rid of those with no one having to work at it too hard. Also there is nothing attractive or considerate about hanging women's underwear about in the trees –yep-- a few people are doing that. What the??????????

In camp, none of this cans, bottles and plastic in the firepits or thrown down into the toilets to cause other people trouble. As my Grandma would have said to such people: “ Were you raised in a pig sty?

Appreciate a clean campsite and/or stable? Then please leave it clean when you go home.

Summary: Protect This Precious Place for Future Citizens to Enjoy.....

Consider the impact of what you are doing---riding on wet trails causes damage that is difficult to repair as does making your own trails or riding off -trail up and down a lovely bluebell hill that now will be ugly and ditched for many years. So treat these trails and this beautiful forest like you plan to bring your grandchildren here. If we all help keep it and protect it, then it will be here for them to enjoy.

Summing it all up: Shimek Forest --- If we do not help protect it, we could lose access to it.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

July 8, 2017 FOS Work Day Report

Forester John Byrd was joined by 15 FOS volunteers and two DNR summer staff for a morning of work that included both Lick Creek Campgrounds, Bitternut Campground and White Oak campground.  Activities included painting table legs and replacing You Are Here signage on the equestrian trails. Chains were hung in several hitching posts and fire pits not in use cleaned. Several people rode trails with loppers and trimmed back low hanging limbs   Many thanks to all for taking the morning to help at Shimek.

One of the major tasks for the morning was updating the "You Are Here" signs. The map signs posted along the trails have been up now several years and had faded and no longer were correct as Shimek has expanded the Wet Weather Trail System. To replace the maps, Forester John Byrd prepared a new map which Lala O'Hara got printed and laminated for us and her brother Neal Hartman and Sonny Gipe (shown here) as well as Marsha Achenbach, Bob Bender and Debbie Miller rode out and installed them in the map holders. John Byrd used the DNR 4-wheeler to deliver six of the heavy map holders that needed to be reinstalled to the post sites. Now there are about a dozen up to date signs scattered along the equestrian trails at key points to help anyone that is wondering just exactly where they might be.  I know, you never get lost--but somebody your directionally impaired blog writer.

Forester John Byrd goes over the map installation
plan with FOS Volunteers.

Neal Hartman and Sonny Gipe head off with maps in their saddle bags to install.

Forester John Byrd discusses where Bob Bender and Marsha Achenbach
 will install maps on the You Are Here signs.

Forester John Byrd delivered several of the  heavy map holders to the
 appropriate signage location. 

Another major activity was extending the life of picnic tables. Every couple of years, DNR staff and FOS Volunteers paint the metal table supports on the tables in all the Shimek Campgrounds. This year, DNR summer staff Ross O'Day and Susan Meinhardt had already painted the upper campground table supports and on the July 8th FOS Group Work Day, they along with several FOS Volunteers painted all the ones not in use in the Lower campground, all the ones at the White Oak Campground and six of the ones at the Bitternut Campground. Still some to go but a lot of headway was made. This helps slow the rusting of the table supports where they rest on the ground. 
Ross O'Day and Alan Ball flip a table with the legs up for painting.

Here Susan Meinhardt cleans the dirt and trash off the table legs
 while Alan Ball begins painting at White Oak Campground

Bill Fiordelise painting a table in the Lower Campground.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

DNR Reorganization Affecting Shimek State Forest

 Many people have heard rumors of major changes within DNR over the holiday. What FOS has learned from several sources as of noon on 7-5 is that--yes--the Forestry Bureau has been eliminated as a separate bureau as of July 3rd by DNR Director Gipp. Personnel affected were notified by e-mail. Of course, many were on holiday at the time.

The segments of Forestry have been disbursed in various other DNR Bureaus. The individual forests have been assigned to various Parks and Preserves Bureau offices. Shimek State Forest is assigned to Southeast Iowa District Parks under Tom Basten, who was already responsible for the campgrounds, in cooperation with the Shimek Forester.

 For the time being, there are no individual Forest staffing changes, no changes in responsibilities and certainly no increases in budgets for the State Forests.

FOS are all concerned about the impact of such major changes and must hope for the best possible outcome for Shimek DNR staff and Shimek forest.  When any official documents on this are made available, FOS will post them here.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

July 8th FOS Workday Plans



Come join other friends of Shimek at 8am at the Lick Creek Lower Campground on Saturday, July 8th at the gravel circle as you first arrive at the campground. Forester John Byrd will give us an update on what is happening at Shimek. Then he and Work Day Coordinator Neal Hartman will assign work day tasks, volunteers will sign liability forms ( if needed) and volunteer log. After a morning of work, all will return to the Lower Campground at noon to report back on progress, then rest a while with friends. Bring a sack lunch (if you like), water provided. Don't forget your blaze orange Friends of Shimek work vest if you have one. There will be some loaners available to identify all of us as volunteers. Remember—no previous volunteer experience necessary.

Please RSVP to FOS by email so we have an idea of who is coming and what you are bringing for tools and equipment. Since this is a Saturday and likely to be busy, we will NOT take 4 wheelers out on trails. If pouring rain, then the work day may be cancelled. Any change in work day status will be promptly posted on FB and the FOS Blog as well. If there is a change, anyone who has advised us they are coming will be contacted via e-mail or phone.

Primary goals for the day are both campground and trail work. Campground work includes putting chains on some new hitching rails, painting tables where campsites are not in use, clean up of fire pits, campsites and stalls and can and bottle sorting. Trail work needed that can be done on foot or on horseback includes some weedeating/walk behind mowing and replacing sign sheets in the You Are Here signs on the trails, trash/can pick-up and clipping back overgrowth on narrower trails with loppers. Let us know what you want to work on and we will discuss what supplies you might need to bring and what DNR or FOS can supply. Paint and chains will be provided by DNR.

We look forward to having you with us that morning. We will all return to camp at Noon to report back and enjoy our own brown-bag lunches with friends. Water will be provided and we might have a watermelon or two to share that day! Most work is expected to be finished by noon.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

May 16th--A Beautiful Day to Work at Shimek

On a crisp , sunny day--May 16th--fourteen FOS volunteers and all DNR Shimek staff met to cleanup the campgrounds and to clear downed trees, mow some trails and generally improve the riding conditions and appearance in the equestrian campgrounds and on the riding trails.   Thanks to all the volunteers and the entire DNR crew.  Special thanks to the several volunteers who are not equestrians but enjoy and appreciate our forests.

Forester John Byrd gives the days "marching orders" before crews head off to the trails and spread out around the two campgrounds to get the place cleaned up.
Here volunteers are shown clearing gutters and cleaning out stalls in the Lower Campground.

Pam Ball, Marsha Achenbach and Shirley Mulligan followed by DNR employee Ben Hassman all carry collected bags of recyclable cans and bottles for sorting and bagging correctly. Over $150 was raised this time.

Three ATV crews head off to cut downed trees, remove fallen debris from trails and trim back overgrowth.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Forester Update: New Addition to WWT

We began the Wet Weather Trail System (WWT) in 2013 with the objective of providing some trails that can be ridden in more adverse conditions than the dirt trails, thus offering you, the riders, more days of suitable riding opportunity each year.   The first section of over 3 miles opened in 2014.

The project of adding 2.2 miles of trails to the WWT system has been ongoing since fall of 2015.  Weather is always a contributing factor to getting work completed on the trails, but we have been working diligently when it has been dry and we can take a break from forestry duties.  It is my pleasure to announce that we have COMPLETED the new addition to the WWT system.  This is an exciting time due to the scope of the project that we started a couple years ago.  It opens up a new part of the forest to riding when dirt trails are too soggy to ride.  This new trail should give users another option when conditions could otherwise be damaging to trails.  The WWT should insure  increased safety for both riders and horses or mules and  protect another section of the forest from extreme erosion.  

The new section of WWT was made possible by many hands and organizations that also share the forest's vision of protected and sustainable trails.  The major funding agency was the William M. and Donna J. Hoaglin Foundation which provided grants for the majority of the rock for both the initial WWT and for the addition to the WWT.  Friends of Shimek also provides  major support by dedicating funds every year to rock for trail development and maintenance and by managing the foundation grant.  The Iowa DNR funded additional rock needed and DNR Shimek staff did the trail construction work including shaping and rocking.  

From today forward this new section of the WWT System is open and is included in the trails that can be ridden both when all trails are open and when the trail status is Closed---WWT Open.  Signage is not complete yet but the trail should be obvious due to the rock on the trail.  A sign is posted on the side of each information kiosk that shows the complete WWT System.  There still is a possibility of closing the WWT if maintenance is needed or there are unusually wet conditions, so always check trail status before riding.  

Thank you to everyone that put work into the project or donated funds.  Thank you to all of the riders who have supported the plan to have a WWT System by following the guidelines posted for trail status and only riding trails that are open.   This addition to the WWT is another big step in the development of a sustainable trail system. The DNR Shimek staff and Friends of Shimek, with your help and support, will continue to work towards having the most sustainable trails possible.

Thank you and happy riding.

John Byrd,  Shimek Forester

Note:  See the page titled Trails at Shimek: Open, Closed or WWT? for a map and guidelines.
Section of the WWT Addition

Saturday, May 13, 2017

In Memory of Donna J. Hoaglin


Two grants from the William M. & Donna J. Hoaglin Foundation  enabled FOS and DNR to establish the Wet Weather Trail system.. The generosity of  Mrs. Hoaglin and her family is much appreciated.  

In Memory of

Donna Jean Hoaglin


February 05, 1922 - May 04, 2017

See photo at
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Donna Jean Nicholson Hoaglin, 95, of Mt. Pleasant passed away on Thursday, May 4, 2017, at Park Place Elder Living Center in Mt. Pleasant.

Funeral services will be held on Sunday, May 7, 2017, at 2:30 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in Mt. Pleasant with Rev. Trey Hegar officiating. Burial will follow in the Hillsboro Cemetery. Friends may call after 1:00 p.m. on Saturday at the Murphy Funeral Home in Mt. Pleasant where the family will be present from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. The family will also receive friends on Sunday at the church beginning at 1:00 p.m. until the service time. Memorials may be directed to the HCI Care Services, First Presbyterian Church or to the Salem Crew Public Library in her memory.

Donna was born on February 5, 1922, at home near Salem, Iowa, the daughter of Russell Paul and Florence Leila Ross Nicholson. She was united in marriage to Kenneth L. Remick on November 10, 1940 in Mt. Pleasant. They later divorced. On January 17, 1950, she was united in marriage to William M. Hoaglin in Keokuk, he preceded her in death on May 30, 1997, at the age of 100.

Growing up on a farm in rural Salem, Donna attended the Salem Country Schools and graduated from Salem High School in 1939 at the age of 17. She worked as a bookkeeper for several area businesses including Hoaglin’s Department Store. Together, she and her husband established the William M. and Donna J. Hoaglin Foundation. Donna served as the vice-president of the Foundation during her husband’s tenure as president and then as president until her death. She and her husband were involved in agriculture, traveled, and were members of the Country Club on the River. She was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Mt. Pleasant where she taught Sunday School, served in the Presbyterian Women’s Association, and was named one of the first women elders. Donna was a member of numerous organizations including Farm Bureau, the State Historical Society of Iowa, Questers, Mt. Pleasant Women’s Club, Henry County Genealogical Society, and the Henry County Health Center Auxiliary. Donna was named a 50-year member of both PEO Chapter Original A and the National TTT Society.

Donna enjoyed genealogy, playing bridge, and reading her Bible. She also enjoyed gardening, cooking, and attending music and sporting events of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Donna is survived by her grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchild:
Grandson Joseph Remick and his wife Carol of rural Hillsboro, and their children: Spenser Remick and his wife Amber of Oskaloosa, Morgan Fry and her husband Benjamin, of New London; and Carson Remick of Pella; Grandson Larry Remick and his wife Lisa of rural Hillsboro, and their children: Rachael Sathoff, and her husband Jordan, along with their infant son, Jadon of rural Hillsboro; and Elliott Remick of Mt. Pleasant; Granddaughter Jeanna Yochum and her husband Tom of rural Hillsboro, and their children: Melia Smith of Kennesaw, Georgia; Mackenzie Yochum of Elwood, Iowa; and Casey Yochum of rural Hillsboro; and her daughter-in-law Judith of Washington.

Donna was preceded in death by her parents; her son Russell K. Remick; her brother Ross Nicholson in infancy.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Here are the plans:

Come join other friends of Shimek at 8am at the Lick Creek Upper Campground on Tuesday, May 16th. Forester John Byrd will give us an update on what is happening at Shimek. Then he and Work Day Coordinator Ann Bennett will assign work day tasks, volunteers will sign liability forms and volunteer log. After a morning of work, all will return to the Upper Campground at noon to report back on progress, then rest a while with friends. Bring a sack lunch (if you like), water provided. Don't forget your blaze orange Friends of Shimek work vest if you have one. There will be some loaners available to identify all of us as volunteers. Remember—no previous volunteer experience necessary.

Please RSVP to FOS by email so we have an idea of who is coming and what you are bringing for tools and equipment. If trails are closed or conditions uncertain for a 4 wheeler, we will NOT take 4 wheelers (or horses) out on trail. Sorting redemption cans and bottles and campground clean up will still proceed. Or if pouring rain, then the work day may be cancelled. Any change in work day status will be promptly posted on FB and the FOS Blog as well. If there is a change, anyone who has advised us they are coming will be contacted via e-mail or phone.

Volunteers should bring equipment, tools or supplies from home as discussed below. Note: If you have equipment for workers to use but you will not be using it, please e-mail or call John Byrd at 319-878-3811 to be sure it will be needed before taking the trouble to bring it.

Primary goals for the day are trail clearing and campground cleanup.

A couple of teams with ATV's are needed to clear fallen trees, pick up any cans/bottles, clear back brush as needed, and check trail signage for numbered posts, Wet Weather Trail and "You are here" with maps signage. Bring 4 wheelers, chainsaws and protective gear, loppers for branches and multi-floral rose and brambles (FOS has several good pair of loppers). Trash bags provided.

Clean out fire pits in Upper and Lower Campground and pick up sticks off camping pads. Need gloves. Trash bags provided by DNR.

Sort and bag cans and bottles for redemption. Quite a few bags have accumulated over winter and need to be sorted. Need gloves. Clear bags for redemption provided by FOS. Bring any recyclable deposit cans and bottles from home to add to the recycle.

Bleach and scrub inside of pit toilet buildings, check for supplies like toilet paper, hand sanitizer. FOS provides latex gloves, water hoses, mop and bleach needed for sanitizing.

Rake chips around hitching rails –heavy rakes and gloves needed.

Clean out gutters on horse shelters. Bring gloves. DNR provides ladder. Two person job - ladder to be stabilized by one person on the ground.

 Finally, if time and number of volunteers permit, painting of a pedestrian bridge at Martin Pond on Hiway 2. It will need to have some large areas ground with a grinding wheel to remove rust and flaking paint. DNR will supply green paint. FOS will provide mineral spirits and rags and latex gloves. Bring a paint brush. We will have some you can use if you do not bring one.

Whew! This list is long for this is our first work day of the season and once again DNR Forestry and Parks are under the axe on budgets so campground summer staffing has not been provided. Your help is needed more than ever to keep our facilities and trails in good shape.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The 5th Annual FOS Education Day ---- Lacey-Keosauqua Park

Education Day at Lacey-Keosauqua State Park
by Ann Bennett, FOS President
A total of 26 people met at the Lacey-Keosauqua Park Lodge on April 1st to enjoy an educational walking tour along the Des Moines River in Lacey-Keosauqua State Park and/or a Friends Group Meeting. The Friends of Shimek, with the cooperation of Friends of Lacey, hosted the Education Day. DNR Southeast Area Parks Supervisor Tom Basten hosted a Southeast Iowa Friends Groups Meeting following the walking tour.  
The hikers--Friends of Shimek and Friends of Lacey--are shown at Ely Ford.
 Participants learned about the development of Lacey-Keosauqua State Park. It is one of Iowa's largest and most picturesque parks with 1,653 acres of hills, bluffs and valley along the Des Moines River in Van Buren County. The Park Lodge was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) and originally was the club house for a golf course.  There is a new memorial bronze sculpture of a CCC worker at the original park entrance.  The Friends of Lacey funded the renovation of the 1935 Gatehouse and the new CCC Memorial.  The golf course proved too difficult to maintain due to the hilly terrain so now the Park Lodge can be rented for weddings, family reunions and anniversaries.

Lacey-Keosauqua State Park was established in 1921 and was the second park established in Iowa. Backbone State Park was first,  established in 1920. The first national conference about parks was hosted in Des Moines due to Iowa's leadership in establishing parks.

The park is named after Major John Fletcher Lacey who fought in the Civil War and was elected to the House of Representatives in 1868 and to Congress in 1888. He campaigned for conservation legislation and was instrumental in establishing a state park system in Iowa.

Park Technician Justin Lynton and Park Manager Justin Pedretti guided a walk along the Des Moines River to Ely Ford used as a crossing before roads were established and near where the Mormon Pioneer Trail crossed the river.
  This photo shows members of the group crossing a footbridge along the trail.

The river was eroding the outside bend and eating into the banks so that a monument marking Ely Ford and some big sycamore trees would end up in the river.  A big riprap project was constructed using concrete from the old Douds bridge, then finished with quarry rock funded by Friends of Lacey.  Federal flood relief programs would not repair the damage since no measures had been taken before to stop the erosion.

This area on the Des Moines River also set the scene for the “Honey War “---which was an argument between Missouri and Iowa over the location of the border that began with surveying errors in the 1830's and ended in 1839 with some cut honey trees, attempts to collect taxes, and threats by militia from both sides. The actual boundary between the states was surveyed and marked in 1851 and again in 1896. Some of the stone markers can still be found along the IA-MO border.

There are several Indian Mounds protected within the park boundaries and the Office of the State Archaeologist (OSA) has examined human remains exposed by weathering which were then re-interred in accordance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Descendants of the Ioway tribe have examined other artifacts within the park and believe they represent the late Woodland Culture around A.D. 1000.
This photo shows just how beautiful the bluebells are on the Bluebell Hill at Ely Ford.

Several people noticed garlic mustard, an invasive weed that is difficult to control, overtaking the bluebells on Bluebell Hill. A few days after the hike, volunteers began hand weeding since chemical control would also harm the bluebells and other wildflowers.

Shimek State Forester John Byrd identified trees along the way and talked about forest management.  He talked about the difference between the Parks mission for recreation and the Forest mission for timber management.   There is a 918 acre Keosauqua Unit of Shimek State Forest adjoining the west side of Lacey-Keosauqua State Park.  There are several miles of hiking and snowmobile trails in it. John mentioned that there are 4 agencies that co-operate with each other in this area - Shimek State Forest, Lacey-Keosauqua State Park, Lake Sugema Wildlife Management Area and the Van Buren County Conservation Board.
John Byrd (in orange) is shown with Bob and Marsha Achenbach along the trail.                   

After the hike, the DNR Southeast Area Parks Supervisor, Tom Basten, hosted a Southeast Io
wa Friends Group Meeting to discuss the Parks 2020 initiative which will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Iowa Parks. Retired Parks Bureau Chief Kevin Szcodronski is leading the Parks 2020, planning and enlisting help from the Friends Groups.  The years 2017 and 2018 are designated for fund raising, 2019 is "sprucing up" the parks, and 2020 is celebrate. The current Parks Bureau Chief Todd Coffelt attended and encouraged participation by the local communities in partnership with the local parks to celebrate the outdoors in some way during 2020. There is not a boiler plate for the celebration as each park is unique. Representatives of four Friends Groups attended: Lacey-Keosauqua, Lake Darling, Rock Creek, and Shimek Forest.  (The Shimek Forest campgrounds are managed by the Parks Bureau while the trails are managed by the Bureau of Forestry.)   For info on the Iowa Parks Foundation, see

Tom Basten (left) and Todd Coffelt pause at Ely Ford before the Friends Group Meeting.
Addendum: Interested in the “Honey War” between MO and IA? Here is an entertaining article about it:

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Managing Shimek Forest and the Equestrian Trails

Most of us who use the trails and campgrounds at Shimek Forest are not very familiar with issues faced in managing that forest and the trails. Forester John Byrd must balance the requirements of sustainability versus use everyday. Here is a little about that process.

Shimek State Forest is over 9,000 acres subdivided into several units disbursed in Lee and Van Buren Counties managed by DNR Forestry. Managing a forest does not mean just letting it grow— sustainability requires extensive management practices followed carefully from planting to harvest. There is a detailed management plan online for Shimek State Forest that is over 300 pages and defines the many steps in forest management for each piece of ground—sometimes subdivided to one acre sites . See . To do all this work, when fully staffed, there is the Forester and three full-time crew members. This past year, for four months there were only two people doing all that work. Because of the nature of the work and state regulations, certain aspects of the work must be done between Oct 1 and April 1—meaning that there is no time for other functions during this period. This work is the first priority for the Shimek crew....“to protect, sustain and ensure the lands” so the resources are there for future generations.

The equestrian trails are a courtesy over and beyond forest management and come under the next priority which is “Provide sustainable, responsible recreational opportunities where possible.” Yet, there are no state budget funds allocated for trails development, management nor improvement at Shimek. There are only a couple of summer hires and every once in a while a part-time technician to help with the campgrounds in summer —not the trails. Previous Shimek Foresters had often done very little to support the trails and campgrounds except allow them to be used. Thus, when Forester Byrd arrived, the campgrounds were dilapidated and the trails already badly eroded in some areas with little done to maintain them. In fact, at the state level in 2011 there was a push to close such trails in state forests. However, Forester Byrd is most cooperative about working with volunteers to improve the situation, making time during the primary riding season each year to improve and sustain the trails and to improve the campground facilities in cooperation with volunteers. Some funds to purchase rock and materials for the trails as well as for forest management come from REAP—the state fund from gaming and natural resource license plates. (DNR statewide gets 9% of those funds.) Through grants obtained by the Friends of Shimek from generous area foundations and donations from individuals who support this effort, funds to make significant campground and trail improvements were obtained. Labor was provided by Forester Byrd and his crew as well as Friends of Shimek volunteers to build horse stalls and develop wet weather trails. He has often volunteered on Saturday –which should be his day off.

Over the last few years, the number of riders using the trails has markedly increased, causing more stress to the resource and requiring more frequent closing of dirt trails during wet weather. Wet weather use of dirt trails results in serious erosion and development of deep wet loblollys. To improve this situation, the Wet Weather Trail (WWT) system was developed. It is designed to give a firmer foundation for riding in some of the flatter trail areas so that it would not be necessary to close all trails when the soil was wet and dirt trails are susceptible to damage. There will always be differences of opinions as to whether or not the dirt trails or even the Wet Weather Trails should be open. It is the Forester's responsibility to make that call, with protecting the resource the first priority. Some people have commented that the gravel on the WWT and in bad areas is hard on horses' feet. As the trail is used, the gravel packs and the trail becomes a firm foundation and not so hard on the feet. However, many people choose to fit their horses with boots such as EZboots to avoid a problem. On the other hand, taking a horse through a mud loblolly can easily cause serious harm to the horse and that means those areas must either be closed when wet (and they stay wet a LONG time) or heavily graveled. There is no way yet figured out to avoid an inconvenience or risk in some cases for some people in deciding when to open trails or whether to gravel or not---but we're sure Forester Byrd will keep trying.

The frequent funding cuts to DNR have often kept DNR Shimek understaffed – and that is happening again now--and the cuts have meant very little equipment money. DNR Shimek has one almost new track loader for 9,000 acres of forest management, 25 miles of equestrian trail maintenance and about 32 miles of hiking trail maintenance. The other equipment is very old and worn! Often in the past volunteers have brought in their own tractors to do trail mowing as the old tractors at Shimek are not very suitable for trail mowing.
Forester John Byrd (right) working with FOS volunteers
 on the hitching rails.

We hope you will pause to thank our Forester for his support next time you see him. We would also very much appreciate it if you would contact your state senators and representatives to urge them to support better funding for DNR so we can continue to have equestrian trails and facilities now and into the future.

And,yes, we hope you will be a friend of Shimek through donating time, items for use or auction and/or money to help support the equestrian trails.