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Letter to the editor

By Staff | Nov 13, 2008

To the EDN,

The Friends of Fort Defiance received the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Outstanding Large Project Volunteer Award Saturday at the Des Moines Botanical Center.

Representing the groupo were Dave Seylar; Lori Donovan, secretary; laura Young, treasurer; and John Wittneben, president. Wittneben received the plaque from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources for this year’s work on three new trails.

The award is given “for those projects that stand out in terms of scope of accomplishment; collaborative efforts between volunteers, partners and staff; a project with a large public impact; a project that would not have been possible without volunteers.” The group was nominated by Steve Reighard, park ranger at Gull Point State Park, whose efforts and personal contributions of time, guidance and work as the liaison to/from the Iowa DNR continues to be invaluable.

The Friends of Fort Defiance is one of more than 33 such groups in Iowa and while it is one of the newest, formed just two years ago, the group has managed to catch the attention of the powers that be. The list of improvement projects at Fort Defiance which have been completed, several more in the final stages, and significant future plans will likely keep interest in the park growing for some time to come. With over 1,000 hours already donated by the volunteers it is clear that the group enjoys the work, the award is just frosting on the cake.

Special thanks to our nominator and the guy who puts “Friend” in our name, Steve Reighard. Our only regret is that Steve did not win for Outstanding DNR Staff. That award went to his good friend, Michael Hawkins, fisheries biologist at the Spirit Lake Fish Hatchery. Special recognition also goes to Gary Phillips, professor of environmental studies at Iowa Lakes Community College. Gary and his students have been working on park projects for over 12 years. He served as the group’s first president and his knowledge and expertise are unmatched. Gary remains the driving force behind new and innovative projects for Fort Defiance and his presence was truly missed at Saturday’s Banquet.

The group also wishes to thank the Estherville Daily News for all the coverage given our group. Usage of the park and group membership have risen dramatically since this coverage began, just one more benefit of having a local paper that gets information out to the public. Here again, special thanks to EDN staff writer, Mike Tidemann who got the whole ball rolling in June 2006 when he asked our state representative, Marcie Frevert, what could be done to improve conditions at Fort Defiance. Keep an eye out for Mike as he doesn’t just report the news, he’s part of the news!

John Wittneben, President

Friends of Fort Defiance