LCCD to manage 350 acres donated to Iowa DNR

Radio Keokuk News Director

MONTROSE – The Lee County Conservation Department is set to take over management of a local farmstand that was willed to the Iowa DNR this past fall.

The Lee County Conservation Board met for their regular monthly meeting Tuesday night in Montrose and one of the first action items on the agenda was a resolution to approve a management agreement with the Iowa DNR regarding the Denning property in northern Lee County.

When Eleanor Denning passed away in the fall of 2018, she willed her 350 acre homestead to the Iowa DNR with the intent the land be used for conservation purposes. The property sits at 1653 130th Street which is a Donnellson address but sits just between Houghton and Mount Hamel in Lee County. As a result, the Iowa DNR will be utilizing Lee County Conservation to manage this property and oversee its conversion from farmstead to conservation area.

The conservation district unanimously adopted the arrangement and the DNR will hold ownership of the property while Lee County Conservation will manage the property and receive lease payments from the current farm tenant.

The lease agreement with the current tenant was the second action item concerning the Denning Conservation Area that was taken up by the board. When the property was willed over to the DNR, the current tenant was about to begin a new lease year and according to Conservation Director Nathan Unsworth, the county will honor that agreement for one year.

“Typically we’d want to bid out on a project like this but since Mrs. Denning passed away at such a late time in the year, we couldn’t change tenants at that point so we’ll honor that agreement that they had. This fall we’ll bid that property out for next year’s lease.”

The conservation department will be paid $30,000 for the 2019 year by the tenant per the current agreement.

Unsworth said those payments will go into a trust fund for the property which will be used to convert the property over entirely to conservation uses in the future. For now, the property does have a house with several barn and shed structures, all of which will be demolished, with the funds from the lease agreement used to fund those actions.

“The plans for the Denning Conservation Area will be finalized when we sit down with the DNR later this fall to look at ideas for the property,” Unsworth said.

In other action, the board unanimously approved of the hiring of two seasonal employees. Alexis Walrath was hired to a part-time position as the Beach Concessionaire. Bryce Solem will work the summer months as a Conservation Aide, working under Operations Coordinator John Pawling performing various maintenance tasks.

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