Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Here are the plans:

Meet at 8am at the Upper Campground on Tuesday, May 16th, to assign work day tasks, volunteers sign liability form and volunteer log. 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. Ann Bennett will be the work day coordinator.

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.

Work plans for the day follow. 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.

 Painting of a pedestrian bridge at Martin Pond on Hiway 2. 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 is 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.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Plans for the 5th Annual Shimek Forest Education Day

Each year FOS works with Shimek DNR staff to provide an education day about Shimek Forest, its resources and how it is managed.  This year, the program steps out---all the way to Keosauqua.
Come learn more about Lacey-Keosauqua State Park and about the Keosauqua Unit of Shimek State Forest. Meet at the Lacey-Keosauqua Park Lodge (pictured below).

Coffee and snacks at 8:30 am.  Explore the lodge and visit with friends.  The program begins at 9:00AM. Presenter Justin Lynton is the DNR Technician for both Shimek State Forest and Lacey-Keosauqua State Park. After a brief introduction to the park, we will take a hike along the Des Moines River trail down the hill to Ely Ford, with discussion along the way of the sites there, including the Indian Mounds. 

On returning to the Lodge,  the trail head for Shimek State Forest's Keosauqua Unit will be identified and the CCC statue and other features of Lacey Park discussed. Program completed about 11 AM. 

 Dress to be outdoors that morning. Free to all.  All ages welcome.  If you have any questions, Justin can be reached at  319-931-9566 or you can e-mail

Lacey-Keosauqua Lodge at Ivy Trail entrance --photo from the Friends of Lacey website

Here is a map that might help you locate the Lodge if you are not familiar with Lacey.  Google map or other electronic mapping will take you to the Park Entrance at Keosauqua where you can drive through the park as shown or you can enter by taking J40 to Ivy Trail and just as you go into the park, you will be at the Lodge.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Report on Annual FOS Dinner to Honor Volunteers

Friends of Shimek gathered at Little Mexico Restaurant in Mt. Pleasant on January 21 to honor the 2016 Volunteers. A total of 41 people volunteered 540 hours during 2016 to support Shimek State Forest trails and campground projects, despite having two of the planned work days rained out. Volunteers working 16 hours or more received bandannas, those working 8 hours or more received FOS patches and all received a Thank You card with photos of the 2016 work.

The Bennett 2016 Volunteer of the Year award was presented to Robert Achenbach on behalf of the Board by President Ann Bennett. Bob and his wife Marsha have worked at all scheduled group work days since the inception of FOS in 2011. Plus Bob has worked called work days on special projects and donated his hand-turned bowls as awards for other volunteer winners. He was presented a Certificate of Appreciation and a boot jack made by John Bennett.

Tom Basten, Southeast Iowa Parks Supervisor, spoke to the group about expected cuts in the upcoming budget and plans for the rest of this budget year.

The Board of Directors presented each DNR employee attending (sown above, l -r), Shimek Forester John Byrd, Shimek and Lacey Technician Justin Lynton, and Parks Supervisor Tom Basten with framed photos titled “May the Forest be With You” in appreciation of their support of the FOS. 

Board members joined Forester John Byrd in the photo above to present him with a Letter of Commendation. This was done in recognition of over six years of support of FOS and especially for his unflagging support this past year despite having very serious staffing shortages for several months.

Dinner attendees “passed the hat” and raised $282 toward the FOS goal of $2,000 for Wet Weather Trail support and other projects planed for 2017. A donation was also received toward this project this past week from the Shike Martin family in his memory , as Shimek held a special place in his heart—he was a career Shimek employee, retiring some years ago.

Fund-raising activities planned for 2017 include a Benefit Meal and Auction set for November 4. Bonnie Moothart, Benefit Co-Chair, is shown explaining what is planned and how to donate items for the auction. More information on that is in the post entitled " Donations Sought for November FOS Benefit Meal and Auction."

Donations Sought for November FOS Benefit Meal and Auction

Saturday, October 22, 2016

FOS 2016 Raffle Prizes Award List

Award List for FOS Raffle -- OCTOBER 22, 2016

Grand Prize: Hand-Made Quilt
Made and Donated by Bonnie Moothart
Won by Jan Lawler

Raffle Prize: Antler bottle holder
Donated by Allen and Pam Ball.
Won by Cassie Graber

Raffle Prize: Trail Walking Sticks (2)
Donated by Pam and Allen Ball
Won by Jo Watson and Mary Detwieler
(Note: Had an error here as there were two walking sticks--now corrected.)

Raffle prize: Piggy Cutting Board
Donated by Pam and Allen Ball
Won by Andrew Geerdes
Raffle Prize: Horseshoe cross
Donated by Alan Ball
Won by Mary Mettenburg

Raffle Prizes: 7 Trail Map bandannas--this one of Shimek trails. 
Donated by Iowa Parklands (See )
Winners were :
Kelly Britnell, Bob Bender, Bev Downey(2), Therese Dupepe, Tammy Smith, and Don Harris

Winners will be contacted with the phone numbers  on the winning tickets.
Donations and ticket sales raised $810.* for the evening, plus promises of awards to be donated for the 2017 Raffle!  *revised per final figures from FOS Treasurer

A photo collection from the evening will be in a separate posting.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

New Hitching Rail Pads--A Partnership

The Friends of Shimek Work Day on Sep. 13 focused on putting lime chips around all the hitching rails. Those lime chips--over 300 TONS of them--were provided by a grant from the Lee County Charitable Fund (LCCF) to improve the equestrian campgrounds by upgrading the hitching rails. LCCF funds Lee County Projects of 501c(3) organizations. Its charitable interests include community betterment. This has been a cooperative project of the LCCF, the Department of Natural Resources Shimek crew and the FOS to improve the equestrian campgrounds by packing lime chips around each hitching rail so that horses will not be standing in mud.

A wonderful crew of 15 volunteers and 2 DNR crew members hauled, dumped, spread, and smoothed lime chips around 36 hitching rails at the Shimek Campgrounds! They also cleaned out firepits, cleaned out the stalls, and worked around the campground as well as sorted recyclable and refundable materials. Work began at 8 am and everyone worked until about 2pm, with a short break for a picnic lunch.  I'm sure there were lots of sore shoulders and legs today from driving equipment or raking lime chips (They don't rake like leaves, I can tell you that!)  Many many thanks from the Board of FOS for all the hard work.

The crew paused for a photo right after lunch while standing on one of the new lime chip pads.  Pictured (left to right) are: Hannah Schau ( DNR Summer Employee), Bob Achenbach, Bill and Linda Fiordelise, Justin Lynton ( DNR Technician), Jo Watson, Pam Ball, Pat Pollpeter, Marsha Achenbach, Bob Bender, Alan Ball, Doug and Bonnie Moothart, Wayne Long, Ann Bennett, and Ray Conrad. Photo by Lora Conrad

The equipment used was provided by DNR --the one skid steer that Shimek has plus two big old tractors that Shimek has. Driving those vehicles were Doug Moothart, Ray Conrad, Bob Achenbach, Alan Ball and Justin Lynton

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Plans for FOS Group Work Day September 13, 2016

Volunteers Neded on September 13, 2016 for  FOS Group Work Day
Meet at 8:00AM in the Shimek State Forest Lick Creek Upper Campground Day Parking Area
FOS Coordinator: Lora Conrad at
Task to be accomplised:
Hitching Rails:  The Lee County Charitable Fund (LCCF) has awarded FOS a grant for 2016 for a joint FOS and DNR project. The funds have been received and accomplishing the first major objective is on the schedule for our September 13th Work Day---refurbish the 37 horse tie rail pads by placing up to 6 inches of lime chips(smoothed and packed) in an area about 20 feet x 24 feet around each 10 foot tie rail. Do you have a tractor or skid-steer that can haul rocks? Bring rakes/shovels for smoothing lime chips---gloves and boots suggested to work in the lime chips.
Trails: Need mowing and some clearing of downed trees (need 2 crews for trail work). Bring 4-wheelers/chainsaws and tools and/or heavy duty walk behind or 4-wheeler pulled mowers.
Campgrounds: Post-Labor Day clean-up. Trash and recycle bags provided. Bring gloves and hand tools you want to use.

Painting: Bridge at Martin Pond and kiosk at Bitternut.

Bring Iowa deposit cans and bottles for fundraiser. Also, sort collected cans and bottles.

Questions? E-mail Lora at foshimek@gm