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Daily News Editorial

By Staff | Oct 28, 2008

After more than two years of sometimes back-breaking work, the Friends of Fort Defiance has been recognized by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources with the Outstanding Large Project Volunteer Award. The award was given for the group’s work on the Fort Defiance State park trail system.

The group was nominated by Iowa Department of Natural Resources Ranger Steve Reighard, himself a tireless volunteer. Reighard has donated many, many hours of his own time to help the local friends group improve the park.

In 2000, trail crews came to the park and did an enormous amount of work revamping trails. In May 2005, however, heavy rains did enormous damage to the trail system. The reason the damage was so severe, according to DNR officials, was the steep slope of the trails.

In response, in just a little over a year, the local friends group has built three new trails in the park.

Acting under direction of the DNR, the Friends of Fort Defiance in June 2007 began work on a new half-mile trail from the native prairie area on the east side of the park and along Spring Creek to its confluence with Spring Section Creek. The DNR is scheduled to build four bridges over Spring Creek and along the new trail today.

The friends have also built an interpretive trail from the former ranger’s house to the west parking lot, with most of the work done by Gary and LaVonne Phillips. Gary Phillips, Iowa Lakes Community College professor of environmental studies and the first president of the Friends of Fort Defiance, enlisted the support of his students who raised the funds to supply materials so the Iowa Lakes construction trades students could built an interpretive kiosk for the trail.

A third equestrian trail extends south across the road from the native prairie area.

With the assistance of a grant from the Emmet County Community Foundation, the Friends of Fort Defiance early this year also produced a brochure promoting Fort Defiance State Park. Future plans include upgrading the electrical service at the park campground and improving signage to the park.

The Friends of Fort Defiance have proven that when a group of committed and dedicated people get together, things get done. Just as the group’s projects have grown, so has its membership. Starting with 12 members in June 2006, there are now 112 friends members.

Yearly membership is just $5 for individuals and $10 for families. To join, send a check to Friends of Fort Defiance, Membership Committee, P.O. Box 314, Estherville, IA 51334.