Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
KEOSAUQUA — The Friends of Lacey-Keosauqua State Park received a big boost to a fundraising campaign from the Wellmark Foundation.
The Friends are raising money to build a paved trail that will be one-third of a mile long and 10 feet wide, connecting the cabins and campground at Lacey-Keosauqua State Park in Keosauqua. The estimated cost of the project is $188,500. Earlier this year, the group learned that more than half of that cost would be covered by a $100,000 grant from the Wellmark Foundation, which gave 21 organizations in Iowa Matching Assets to Community Health (MATCH) grant awards.
All of the groups were notified in May of their awards, and had 16 weeks to secure the matching funds. According to a news release from The Wellmark Foundation, these projects will help individuals, families and communities achieve better health through build environmental initiatives that encourage physical activity or provide access to healthy foods.
Justin Pedretti, park ranger at Lacey-Keosauqua, has been at his post for 19 years. During that time, he’s lived in the heart of the park, and has observed a large amount of foot traffic on the road that connects the cabins, campground and beach. The speed limit on the road is 35 miles per hour. He said the road became especially busy a few years ago as the pandemic pushed people outdoors, where they didn’t have to worry as much about COVID.
One day, his wife and her mother were on the road and it occurred to them that the park badly needed a trail, to separate the cyclists and pedestrians from the faster moving automobiles. Pedretti thought it was a great idea, too, so he pitched it to the Iowa DNR and the Friends of Lacey-Keosauqua, which agreed it was a great project and promised to fund it.
“We want to get people off the road for safety,” Pedretti said. “A lot of kids on bicycles use the road, and large families use it when they rent cabins. There’s also a big curve between my house and the campground, so there’s a visibility issue there, too.”
Pedretti said the trail will follow the road, and that he hopes it will receive all the needed approvals this winter so a contractor can be hired in December.
“The park staff will take down any trees that need to come down,” he said.
Mark Robertson is president of Friends of Lacey-Keosauqua State Park, and he said the group has done a number of things for the park since it was founded about 25 years ago. It’s built a statue of the park’s namesake John Fletcher Lacey, built a bird blind next to the statue, repaired the bank of the Des Moines River where it meets Ely ford, and funded playground equipment in the campground as well as equipment for the park ranger.
Robertson said the group was fortunate to receive the grant from Wellmark. It adds to the other grants the Friends received from local organizations to fund the trail, such as the Van Buren County Foundation, the Community Foundation, and the Hoaglin Foundation in Henry County. The Friends themselves pledged $35,000 toward the project, and ended up raising $202,500. Robertson said the estimated cost of the project, $188,500, was calculated more than a year ago, so it’s likely the project will cost a little more than that now.
Robertson said the Friends loved the idea of building a trail that Pedretti suggested, especially since it runs by several other projects the Friends have worked on, such as the John Fletcher Lacey statue, the bird blind and other educational features.
“We’d like to get it finished before the start of next camping season in May,” Robertson said. “That’s what we’re shooting for.”
The Friends of Lacey-Keosauqua is 50-60 members strong, and the group meets monthly during the camping season and takes the winter off. To learn more about the organization or to join, contact Katie Nichols at 641-919-8120, or Robertson at 515-829-8202.
Call Andy Hallman at 641-575-0135 or email him at email@example.com