The first interest in creating County Conservation Boards in Iowa surfaced in the early 1940's. The effort was strongly supported by sportsmen groups, private individuals and legislators. Probably the most influential support came from the State Conservation Commission and the Izaak Walton League. The first bill was submitted to the Iowa Legislature in 1943.
It was not until 12 years later, in 1955, that the Iowa Legislature passed into law Chapter 111A also known as the "County Conservation Board" Law. The law provided for a specific levy for conservation purposes and provided the conservation boards with a great deal of autonomy in the operation of their programs. One interesting feature of the law is that no County Conservation Board could be created until the proposal was put on a ballot at a general election and favorably acted upon by the people in the county. Chapter 111A was later changed to Chapter 350 of the Iowa Code.
Much of the early support was based on the observation that Iowa was lacking in adequate public lands for outdoor recreation and that the State Conservation Commission would be unable to fill all of this demand in the years ahead. In 1956 the County Conservation proposals appeared on the ballots in 16 counties and were approved by the voters. In subsequent years, more counties adopted the County Conservation Board system. By 1976, 98 of Iowa's 99 counties had adopted this law. By 1991, all 99 Iowa counties had adopted this law and created their County Conservation Boards.
The purpose of Chapter 350, of the Code of Iowa. was to "create a county conservation board and to authorize counties to acquire, develop, maintain, and make available to the inhabitants of the county, public museums, parks, preserves, parkways, playgrounds, recreation centers, county forests, wildlife and other conservation areas, and to promote and preserve the health and general welfare of the people, to encourage the orderly development and conservation of natural resources, and to cultivate good citizenship by providing adequate programs of public recreation."
On November 4, 1958, voters in Adair County approved the establishment of the Adair County Conservation Board, as a political sub-division of Adair County, with 2251 yes to 1075 no votes. The Board of Supervisors appointed Harold Bochart, Karl Correll, Floyd Strong, Clarence Beaman, and Harvey Gipple to serve on the original Adair County Conservation Board in January 1959.
History of Land Acquisitions by the Conservation Board
The Board in 1966 purchased 160 acres, in Section 3,Washington Township for Mormon Trail Park. Mormon Trail Lake dam was completed in 1967. In 1970, the Board purchased 107 acres in Section 23, Summerset Township for the Ken Sidey Nature Area. The Conservation Board, in 1972, entered into a 40-year lease with the City of Orient to develop and maintain the Lake Orient Recreation Area surrounding the city water supply reservoir that was constructed in 1970. In 1975, the Board purchased 30 acres in Section 26, Harrison Township for the Middle River Forest Area. The Jesse James Historical Site in Summit Township was acquired in 1977. Long time Conservation Board member Leonard Ahl donated, in 1985, the 1.98-acre public access to Middle River Forest Area. In 1986 the E. Rex Sullivan Wildlife Area in Section 26, Washington Township was purchased, with the help of a Wildlife Habitat Stamp grant. In 1987, Bill and Mildred Wright donated 80-acre Wright Timber Wildlife Area in Section 23, Harrison Township. An 80-acre addition was added to the Wright Timber Wildlife Area in 1994 using a Wildlife Habitat Grant and donations from the Jensen-Butler Conservation Foundation and Adair County Pheasants Forever. In 1995, another 80-acres was added to the Wright Timber Wildlife Area with donations from the children of the Bill Wright family, Adair County Pheasants Forever, Jensen Butler Conservation Foundation and a Wildlife Habitat Stamp grant. In 1998, the families of Karl Correll donated 45 acres of land in Section 35, Grant Township, Guthrie County for the Karl and Grace Correll Wildlife Area. Karl Correll was one of the five original members of the Adair County Conservation Board.
Since the approval of voters in 1958, the Adair County Conservation Board has acquired developed and now maintains eight areas, totaling 853 acres. These areas include parks, campgrounds, picnic areas, playgrounds, swimming beach, hiking trails, historic sites, public hunting areas, wildlife habitat areas, forests and environmental education programs for all the residents of Adair County to enjoy.