Each year during the Polk County Fair, the Polk Soil & Water Conservation District presents awards to landowners, businesses, conservation driven homeowners and volunteers, organizations, high school graduates seeking environmental degrees and county and city departments for their continued and often unnoticed soil & water conservation work in Polk County.
In 2018, two of the year’s award winners we recognized for their contributions within the Easter Lake watershed and work with the Easter Lake Watershed Project.
2018 Conservation Partner of the Year
The Green Iowa AmeriCorps Des Moines Service Team was recognized as the conservation partner of the year. Members of this team include Cassandra Nemmers, Kate Kemper, Dylan McMains, Madeline Rastall, and Evan Cayton. Throughout the last year the Des Moines service team of Green Iowa has been working with Polk County Conservation and the Easter Lake Watershed Project to plan and lead volunteer events to restore parklands through invasive species removal, clean up events at Easter Lake Park and other Polk County Parks. The 2018 service team has taken strong initiative to plan regular volunteer events involving community members, businesses, and other groups. Their efforts have helped reach goals as part of local watershed projects and has helped bring greater awareness of conservation issues in our local community.
The work this Green Iowa has accomplished can be visibly seen within Polk County parks. The restoration of woodland areas in Easter Lake Park has helped to improve water quality and has started to restore native plant communities to the park. In summer 2018, the group helped to plant over 25 oak, sycamore, and hackberry trees in Easter Lake Park.
In addition to this work, Green Iowa AmeriCorps partners with the Greater Des Moines Area Habitat for Humanity, helps Des Moines residents make their homes more energy efficient, and organizes education and outreach events in schools, community centers, and businesses to educate citizens about environmental issues and sustainable lifestyles.
2018 Urban Steward of the Year
The Polk Soil & Water Conservation District awarded Karen Stiles the 2018 urban steward of the year award. Karen Stiles has had a long career in conservation and has recently worked to manage rain water on her property to reduce pollution and stormwater runoff as part of the Easter Lake Watershed Project.
Karen’s career in biology, marine biology, entomology, and overall passion for nature and conservation has led her to promote a variety of conservation efforts in her own back yard and beyond. Karen has worked to make her house nearly a zero-runoff property using native landscaping, soil quality restoration, and permeable pavement to slow down stormwater runoff. Native wildflowers planted throughout her property provide important pollinator habitat while minimizing runoff. Since installation of her native plants, Karen has identified 6 species of butterflies and several species of bees and other pollinators not previously seen. Additionally, Karen has been utilizing natural lawn care techniques to build up soil health and to reduce the use of fertilizers and pesticides harmful to soil and microbiota and pollinators. Beyond her own property lines, Karen has helped to establish wildflower areas, and has worked with Polk County Conservation to remove invasive species such as oriental bittersweet and garlic mustard within Easter Lake Park. Karen Stiles and her home have provided a great example of how urban residents can become involved in conservation efforts and how they can use urban conservation practices to improve water quality, soil health, and pollinator habitat.
The Easter Lake Watershed Project extends both a “congratulations!” and huge “thank you!” to Green Iowa AmeriCorps and Karen Stiles for their continued dedication to conservation in the Easter Lake Watershed.