A chance to visit the new bird blind—and yes, there was a goldfinch, Iowa’s state bird—walk new trails and learn about fall foliage highlighted the UIRA’s opening program of the year attended by about 35 UI retirees September 10 at F. W. Kent Park.

As a result of a 2008 voter-approved conservation bond referendum, extensive improvements and expansion of areas in Johnson County have been taking place, Johnson County Conservation Commission Board Director Larry Gullett told the attendees. In addition to the $20-million in bonds, Gullett said the Commission has increased those funds through grant programs and donations.

Gullett said the conservation and recreation projects have been undertaken as part of a strategic plan developed from a series of meetings with leaders of environmental and conservation groups and the public. He said the Commission is responsible for 16 areas around the county.

Guiding the conservation and recreation efforts, according to Gullett, have been efforts to protect and restore lands, connect to citizens through education and outreach, maintain and improve water quality, develop partnerships and strive for sustainability.

Assisting retirees in identifying birds and exploring the park were Jim and Karole Fuller. More information about the Commission’s work can be found at its website: