Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
MT. PLEASANT — The Great Outdoors are alive and well in Henry County, and people are taking advantage of them in the best kind of way.
According to Henry County Conservation Director Caleb Waters, there has been a substantial uptick in use of the parks since the Pandemic.
Conservation Operations Supervisor/Park Ranger Dalton Thompson is pleasantly surprised with how many people actively use the county’s parks and how often the campgrounds are completely full.
Thompson became the Henry County Park Ranger Dec. 1, 2021 after six months as a seasonal worker with the county.
His current job entails helping those visiting the parks, maintenance, patrol, and natural resource work.
The latter happens to be Thompson’s favorite part of the job, but he also looks forward to meeting new people every day.
With all that the Henry County Parks have to offer, it is no wonder Thompson has so many opportunities to meet new people.
“We have some really great areas that just need some work,” Waters said. “My goal starting this position is to preserve what we have and maintain, then sprucing up the current amenities.”
One incredibly popular spot in the Oakland Mills Park is the dam.
According to Waters, people enjoy fishing from the dam, and recently a memorial donation came in to replace all of the seating on the fishing deck.
Thompson came across a park visitor who had caught a 55 pound flat head bass with just a rod and reel from the dam fishing area.
The county park is a great place to experience many kinds of outdoor activities including disc golf.
There are two disc golf courses available, and the Virden Recreation Area is commonly home to disc golf leagues.
Additionally, boating is a popular activity for parkgoers.
Boat access is found at Stevenson Park for mud creek, Water Works Park to head upstream, and Faulkner’s access point for boating downstream.
Water Works also has camping, a unique old pump house, and the Ross Observation Tower.
Ross Observation town overlooks private property wetlands and gives visitors an opportunity to observe many water fowl.
The materials for the treasure of the observation tower were donated by local businesses.
According to Waters, the Henry County area is very generous.
Hunters take advantage of the beautiful parks of Henry County with youth hunting courses at Herrin Marsh, and the public is invited to hunt within Oakland Woods.
Many hunters use the cabins in the colder months when there are fewer reservations.
The cabins are actually are available to rent throughout the whole year.
The cabins were also made possible through community donations and have air-conditioning, heating, a kitchenette, fridge, bathroom, and lofts all near the trails.
Other groups that use these cabins commonly include family reunions, bachelor and bachelorette parties, wedding parties, and family vacations.
Family is a lot of the driving force for Waters’ passion in conservation.
“Anytime I can be outside, I am,” Waters said. “I enjoy being outside with kids, and they enjoy being outside too. Even on the really hot days we will be outside in the evenings.”
Waters grew up outdoors hunting, fishing, and farming and could not think of a better career field, but does say that it is a highly competitive field.
When the newest Assistant Naturalist Shania Hansen was selected, she was one of around twenty applicants, and it was just as fierce of competition for Head Naturalist Danika Cox.
Cox and Hansen head up most of the youth and outreach programming within the conservation department.
The two of them are in each local school approximately once a month to lead classrooms in activities pertaining to nature.
Cox recently wrapped up a Birds summer camp programming where campers used binoculars to bird watch, learned about habitats and wing lengths, and even pretended to be birds.
When Cox speaks of the activities her position entails, her face lights up and a smile beams across her face.
That passion is found within all of the conservationists in Henry County.
Interns Grant Swanson and Brody McCall are excited to be a part of making the park an even better space.
One of Swanson’s favorite parts of the internship thus far has been placing new signs for space identification and important notifications.
He finds reward in seeing the before, during, and after steps.
All of Henry County Conservation employees encourage the public to come and enjoy the beauty.
Camp, hike, disc golf, fish, or hunt at Henry County Parks for a great outdoor adventure this summer, or visit the Nature Center with the family.
To find out about the latest activities offered from this busy department visit the Henry County Conservation website or Facebook page.