In 2021, the CCCB had the pleasure of reaching the finish line on a number of major projects. Indeed, over the last year we checked off some projects that began as visions years or even decades ago.
The Motor Mill trail opened in March of 2021, after more than a decade in the works, wrangling through the machinations of federal and state grant dollars. Motor Motor 5K/10K participants christened the trail with its first footprints. They climbed up Galaxy Road to the trailhead, letting out a sigh of relief when the steep gravel road gave way to the trail’s first descent. Their exhalations mirrored our own – breathe out, it’s all downhill from here (knocks on wood).
It wasn’t the only trail development to take place in 2021. We also paved the paths through the wildlife exhibit and pioneer village, a longstanding request from the public, particularly those pushing strollers or wheelchairs. Volunteers built a new trail at the Becker West wildlife area, allowing the non-hunting crowd to enjoy the hidden gem just west of Millville, a goal outlined in the 2012 management plan for the site.
We finished the third floor of the Osborne Nature Center, a longstanding goal since the center was built in 1988. The newly renovated floor offers a fantastic space for the community to gather, already having played host to Soil & Water Conservation District Meetings and retirement parties. Now we can double book more efficiently!
A more rigorous accounting of our 2021 accomplishments, from major habitat improvements to public program offerings, volunteerism, and more can be found in our 2021 annual report (coming soon, stay tuned to this blog for the drop later in the month). But long story short, we have a lot to be proud of looking back on the last year. Many of these projects predate the majority of the current staff, and we can only hope we did the dreamers proud by bringing them to fruition.
That said, it’s January. It’s a time for setting goals, setting resolutions, and looking forward. We’ll be starting construction on the new campground at Osborne this year, a major project which we plan to wrap up in time for the 2025 camping season.
Operating on roughly the same time frame, the inn at Motor will become a useable overnight retreat once more. These projects both represent a very heavy lift, and we’ll need your help to get them over the line, but if past is prologue we’ll get there. For over 60 years, the CCCB and the public we serve have enjoyed a symbiosis that has helped make our county a better place, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
Of course, we’ll have a litany of smaller but no less meaningful projects slated for 2022. I’ve written extensively on this blog about our success stories, habitats restored and presently enjoying greater biodiversity ushered in with the vigorous application of elbow grease. Of course, those projects are never really done. As the great philosopher Bart Simpson once stated, “I started a few fires that I really should keep an eye on.” To remain success stories, those habitats will need tending, like any good garden.
But the inn, the campground, the fire-tending – these are goals, not resolutions. A goal is something tangible, something with a clearly defined outcome. What about resolutions?
A resolution is more of an open-ended intent. That open-ended nature becomes something of a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, if I resolve to eat better, I can declare my resolution a success if I cut my annual pizza consumption down from 300 slices of pizza to 295. But if I resolved to eat better with the goal of losing weight, I’d probably wind up disappointed this time next year.
But in a way, an open-ended resolution can help us feel a lot better about our year than a simple binary goal – lose X pounds, quit doing Y, etc. If I resolve to eat less pizza – but don’t specify by how much – I can feel satisfied with any reduction in melted cheesy goodness. Ultimately, no matter by how much or how little we succeed in our resolutions, we can feel good about ourselves come year’s end if we’ve left a little room for interpretation.
So what do I have for new year’s resolutions? Nothing, of course. I’m perfect.
Just kidding. I’m big on both goals and resolutions. That too can become a double-edged sword. I am going into my seventh year working for the Clayton County Conservation Board, and almost every year I’ve made it a point to tackle something big, or to start a new project. A lot of that approach stems from the reason I got into conservation in the first place. I like to go home tired. I like to finish the day with something tangible to behold for my efforts. I love to learn, but I generally point my (professional) curiosity towards subjects with real-life applications. But the natural world is full of wonder, replete with subjects worth exploring for nothing more than their intrinsic value. This year, I’m resolving to spend more time exploring for explorations sake. I resolve to learn more bird songs, not so that I can put them on a spreadsheet but so that I can better hear what the world is trying to say. I resolve to spend more time watching pollinators work the wildflowers, without trying to figure out the critter’s binomial nomenclature.
In short, I resolve to spend more time listening without calculating. Enjoying a walk in the woods for all it can offer today, without burdening myself with what it could be. Sometimes it feels like every new factoid I cram into my brain pushes out a little more of that wonder, and wonder is the foundation of passion. There will always be time for textbooks, for case studies, for grunt labor and meticulous field surveys. But each day, each moment, happens only once. Put too many of them into the sterilized cup of metrics and data, and the well of wonder runs dry.
Winter held off as long as it could, and in the mild temperatures we had a fantastic evening for the annual Holiday Walk! Walkers were treated to the ins-and-outs of migrating birds, courtesy of some wonderfully talented volunteer actors. The rapid molting of their plumage suggests my costuming still has some work to do, but a great night was had by all.
The winter field trip season kicked off with the Central students coming out for their “Hatchet” themed field trip. Production note: no trees nor central students were harmed in the making of these memories.
Several CCCB staff also ventured down to Iowa County for a meeting of the District 6 conservation boards. The meat of the matter was the scoring of fish habitat projects, but it’s also immensely valuable to swap stories with other CCBs to see how things are going in their counties. We spend a lot of time within the borders of our respective counties, and it’s a great joy to hear about the innovative and inspiring things taking place throughout the state.
This month we’ll welcome Dr. Katherine McCarville from Upper Iowa University for an exciting talk on the role Megafauna played in shaping the landscape of the upper Midwest long before humans arrived on the scene. The talk will take place on January 27th, at 5:00 PM at the Osborne Nature Center.
On January 28th, at 5:30 PM, bundle up and come hunt for the tigers of the night with naturalist Abbey Harkrader! The Owl Prowl is a great way to get out and enjoy a beautiful winter evening, and the woods of Osborne can get awfully noisy that time of year. Barred owls, great horned owls, perhaps if we're really lucky a snowy owl? We can dream, and if not, we can enjoy a nice night hike.
It’s also that time again, registrations for the Motor Motor 5K/10K trail run are live! Last year was a resounding success and we hope to build on that even more this year. But register early – prices go up the week before the race!