Photo of a monarch caterpillar on milkweed

Blue flag iris, dickcissels, monarch butterflies — the Pioneer Park Nature Preserve will be a haven for flora, fauna and outdoorsmen in Dickinson County.

The Dickinson County Conservation Board will tour its newest area, located just south of Milford along Highway 71, during its next Hike the Wild program Tuesday, May 23. Meet at the Dickinson County Nature Center at 9:30 a.m. and caravan to the site with other hikers.

(See the 2017 program schedule here)

“We are excited to show residents and visitors our newest area, which is of both historical and environmental significance in Dickinson County,” said community relations coordinator Kiley Roth. “Because of its location off of Highway 71, we think this will be a popular place to birdwatch and go for afternoon walks.”

Pioneer Park Nature Preserve was the site of a gristmill that was built in 1869 and inspired the growth of Milford into the city it is today. The gristmill drew customers from all over the region during the late 19th century, and people would camp on the site while waiting for their grain to be ground.

The 35-acre park is now home to more than 75 native plant species, such as purple coneflower, stiff sunflower and purple prairie clover. More than 40 bird species have been spotted so far, including the common nighthawk, field sparrow, dickcissel, bald eagle and osprey. You might even spot skunks, deer and other beautiful wildlife.

Photo of a butterfly on swamp milkweed

Beginning this summer, the park will be open for fishing on Milford Creek, which is home to a variety of game fish, including spawning walleye and northern pike each spring. Future plans for the area include mowed trails for strolling and bird watching as well as the construction of a kayak and biking trail head.

“This park has huge potential for family outings, from fishing to picnics, and we’re excited to expand our natural offerings in the county to help people foster an appreciation for the environment by creating fun family memories,” Roth said.

A grand opening for Pioneer Park Nature Preserve will be held during Milford Pioneer Days. Celebrate the park’s official opening at 4 p.m. Tuesday, July 18, during this special quasquicentennial event.

Photo of Milford Creek

Funding for Pioneer Park Nature Preserve came from a Resource Enhancement And Protection grant, a bargain sale from previous owners Mike and Linda Knudtson, the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation’s Foote Fund, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Dickinson County Conservation Board as well as gifts from local donors.

“When a piece of land comes available and the landowners have conservation values, such as Mike and Linda Knudtson, and are willing to offer a bargain sale to protect a piece of our natural resources, along with all the private donations, it is a win for all of us,” said Lee Sorenson, executive director of the Dickinson County Conservation Board.

Dickinson County Conservation owns and maintains more than 10 public areas and parks. To learn more about these places, visit our parks page or call 712-336-6352. You can also keep up with the latest Dickinson County Nature Center happenings on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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