Conservation Club plans volunteering project at Praeri Rail Trail

Katie Rutledge, president of Iowa State’s newest club the Conservation Club and freshman in agricultural business, agronomy and international agriculture, and Elliott Carlson, senior in mechanical engineering, walk along the Praeri Rail Trail on Friday, April 26, 2013.

Daniel Bush

The Conservation Club has started to roll out plans to volunteer at Praeri Rail Trail for fall 2013.

Katie Rutledge, freshman in agricultural business and club member, said they are focused on getting more members to participate and get the “ball rolling” on the project.

“As soon as we can, while the weather is nice, we want to get out there and work on the park,” Rutledge said.

The organization will be responsible for multiple duties.

“We will be working on removing invasive species, litter cleanup, the bluebird housing, making new trails,” Rutledge said. “Just making it more open to the public.”

The Praeri Rail Trail was obtained by Story County in 1978 and was named after the area’s dense Norwegian heritage, according to the Story County website.

The Praeri Rail Trail is now maintained by Story County Conservation and is a part of the SCC’s Adopt-A-Park program founded in 2002, said Tiffany Cornelius, outreach coordinator of Story County Conservation.

“We currently have more than 30 individuals, families and groups, maintaining our parks and areas in Story County through the Adopt-A-Park program,” Cornelius said.

“Volunteers are asked to go out to their adopted area and clean up at least once a month. Many of our volunteers go out more than that.” 

The Praeri Rail Trail consists of 10.5 miles of outdoor recreational activities that flows from Roland through McCallsburg onto Highway 65, west of Zearing.

During winter 2013, the club will be brainstorming on what more they can do within the program and see what students are most interested in helping out with, Rutledge said.

“Small projects, we’re going to try for,” said Casey Judge, senior in biology. “I think initially, we’re probably coming around next spring, we’re going to try to get some wildflower seeds, sell those in packets trying to promote to get the native wildflowers planting in their gardens.”

“Most of the fundraising, we want it to be towards the conservation side of the club,” Judge continued. “We’re going to be a club that is going to have fun and be outdoors.” 

The Conservation Club began April 12, 2013, when Rutledge and her friends were discussing the new leadership in an organization to be very boring and pointless.

“I think that people want to just get outside and have fun and bond with other people that they have stuff in common [with],” Rutledge said.

The club has only had a couple meetings and has accumulated 11 student members, according to the Conservation Club’s website. Rutledge said she was surprised at the diversity of people coming to the meetings.

“When Katie thought of it, she wanted it to be people who are non-majors, but are interested in it,” Judge said. “So I think the first meeting was a good indication of success on that regard.”

Any person closely affiliated with the university is able to join the club.

“It works out well,” Rutledge said. “Because we are so broad, everybody connects with one point or another and we can do everything that everybody else does.”

One issue that the club ran into was being compared to an Environmentalist Club.

“We don’t want to promote that,” Rutledge said. “We want to promote more of using what we have, but conserving it for future generations, so using it responsibly.”