AMES, Iowa – Story County Conservation officials have had their eye on the property across the road from McFarland Park for years. Now, thanks to an assist by the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF) , it will soon be owned by them and developed into something for the public – but what?

The department wants the future users of the 127 acres to let them know what to do with the property and have posted a survey looking for ideas. Outreach Coordinator Erica Place says “We want to increase outdoor experiences for users and who better knows what those experiences should be than the users.”

Place says the property is special, not just because it’s near McFarland Park. It’s a mix of upland grassland, with years of careful soil conservation practices and terraces, along with the woodlands, a creek and a prairie remnant make it a rare mix in Iowa. “Less than half of 1% of Iowa’s original prairie is still intact….so when we find those spots that have that remnant prairie, that original prairie, we try to take good care of those spots.”

Some of the ideas already submitted include disc golf, some form of food forest, wetland development and a 3D archery range. Place says ideas that aren’t suitable for this land might find their way into future developments at other sites. The Conservation Board wants a “light footprint” on this property so things like campgrounds or an OHV park won’t happen here. They will also keep in mind the amenities already available across the road at McFarland Park and will look to compliment those instead of duplicating them.

This property was owned by Bob and Carol Deppe since the mid-1970s. In 2021 they sold this land to the INHF, who will hold it until Story County Conservation raises the money to purchase it. After getting the public input from the survey a master plan will be developed. Fundraising to fit the plan will take place once Story County Conservation knows how much that development will cost.