Thursday, December 7, 2000

Elkader ATV Park

The following letter was sent to us by Thomas Gifford. Since then, is has been reported that the Elkader Development Commission (responsible for bringing development to Elkader) voted 8-0 to oppose the park in writing. "Things may be looking up, but we definitely cannot let our guard down."

I live in Elkader in northeast Iowa. If you've visited the area, you know that we are blessed with several rivers, wooded bluffs, and a rolling terrain that is unique to this corner of the state. That is why I chose to move back here from St. Louis.

I am writing to ask for your help to stop the DNR's proposal to locate an ATV/OHV park along the Turkey River near the confluence of Robert's Creek on land adjoining Elkader. I can't imagine a worse location! The proposed ATV park includes 240 acres stretching approximately 1 1/2 miles along the Turkey River just south of the highway 13 bridge. Not only does this land border the river for 1 1/2 miles, it also includes sinkholes and algific slopes, steep hillsides, wooded areas and yellow lady slippers. Obviously, it is home to wildlife as well. In fact, in the fall, I have personally counted over 25 bald eagles on a stretch of river no more than 2 miles downstream. Friends of mine have counted over 50!

The Turkey River is a popular canoing stream. The length of river between Elkader and Motor Mill (5 miles) is the most heavily canoed stretch and is arguably the nicest canoing water in Iowa. With this park, approximately 1/3 of the trip will be lost to ATV noise and disruption. (The ATV enthusiasts argue that the noise would be no worse than the traffic on Hwy 13. However, what they neglect to mention is that the highway crosses the river at one point, while the ATV park traverses the river for 1 1/2 miles!).

The only house or farm building on the river in this area is the Helle farm (proposed sellers). With most of Iowa already plowed under, we need to cherish and protect the few "wild" places we have left. There are several other reasons to object to this site, not the least of which are, proximity to two parks and a county nature trail, and the closeness to residential neighborhoods in Elkader.

We have a growing base of local support for our efforts to derail this project. However, we need more broad-based support from the environmental community if we are to effect any change on the DNR's position. I do not live by the proposed park. However, I an an avid kayaker, hiker and closet environmentalist. I have also been a member of the Sierra Club off and on over the past several years and am currently sending in my renewal for next year. Can you use your weight to apply pressure to stop this? We have been writing letters to the DNR (Arnie Sohn in particular), but could use e-mails from across the state. I really can't afford to push this much further locally, but it would be an outrage to lose this beautiful valley to something like this. Any help you could give us would be greatly appreciated.

Thomas Gifford
Elkader, IA

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