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‘This will be a recreational hub’

Bids to open on Nature Center in early 2022

A recreational space that will be used to educate the young and serve as an information center along the Des Moines River is now in the design phase, according to Matt Cosgrove, director of Webster County Conservation.

That space will be a nature center. The center will be a 15,000 square foot building featuring exhibit space, classrooms, a kitchen and offices. There will also be an outdoor classroom, Cosgrove said.

“We are working right now on building design, what the floor plan looks like, what will be included in that,” Cosgrove said.

The county is working with ISG, of Des Moines, on building design.

“We are also working with a company out of Illinois called Taylor Studio,” Cosgrove said. “They are working on the theme of the building and exhibits.”

Cosgrove said the goal is to have a floor plan and interpretive plans done by the end of 2021.

“Then we will go into construction design and hopefully put it to bid sometime early next year,” Cosgrove said.

The county is also working on applying for both state and federal grants to help with funding. The cost for the nature center was last estimated at $5.5 million.

“This will be a recreational hub for the county,” Cosgrove said. “It will provide information for all the recreational opportunities located in the county, everything from Brushy Creek and the OHV Park — we will also use it for education. A lot will be focused on toddler age to third or fourth grade is probably our main target for the hands-on interactive exhibits — whether it’s a scheduled program or something they can come in and do on their own through self-interpretation.”

The nature center will be a focal point for what the city is calling the Central River District, which is between the Des Moines River and the City Square.

“This will hopefully open up that riverfront area for a variety of activities, from picnics and fishing to hiking and biking,” Cosgrove said. “It’s neat to see it finally start to come together.”


Expanded trails in Webster County are on the horizon as the Webster County Board of Supervisors are expected to take action on the trail around Badger Lake on Tuesday, according to Cosgrove.

He said the project went to bid on Oct. 19. The contract should be awarded at the Tuesday meeting.

“From there they can move in now or have next spring to get that project done,” Cosgrove said.

It’s about a $1.2 million project.

The county is also working on a trail to Badger.

“We received a grant through the state for COVID relief for $940,000,” Cosgrove said. “We are figuring out a route to get through Badger connecting the Fort Dodge trail system to Badger.”

He added, “We will be working on that route and visiting with landowners over the next couple of months and putting together the actual design and put that project to bid early next spring or summer.”

Cosgrove said because that project has COVID relief money tied to it, it has to be completed by December 2023.

There is hope that down the road the trails can connect with Three Rivers Trail in Humboldt County.

“That puts us about five miles from the Three Rivers Trail,” Cosgrove said. “If we can eventually connect those two that’s over 60 miles of trails.”

In terms of trails for Dayton and Gowrie, Cosgrove said Snyder and Associates, of Ankeny, are putting together trail plans for those communities.

“They are putting some preliminary drawings on where trails can be,” Cosgrove said. “They will be fine-tuning that plan. By the end of the year, we should know proposed routes and cost estimates so we can work on engineering as we get into winter.”

According to Cosgrove, trails are an important element to promoting the quality of life in the Fort Dodge region.

“Over the last 10 years we have done a variety of trail planning and trail development,” Cosgrove said. “We have created a lot of these plans and now trying to implement these plans. One of the biggest challenges is the workforce. If you can create a community where people want to live, work and play it makes it easier to recruit and retain quality employees. So these amenities will just add to the already great things that Fort Dodge and Webster County and the region have invested in — Brushy Creek, Kennedy, OHV Park, Harlan Rogers, and some of the smaller amenities to provide that place to create recreational opportunities close to home and recruit and retain a young qualified workforce.”

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