New Leader For Iowa's Whiterock Conservancy

Iowa Farm Scene

Conrad Kramer will manage this land trust, which was once the famous Garst Farm at Coon Rapids.

Published on: June 3, 2013

The diverse Whiterock landscape contains timbered hills, river-side bluffs, rolling pastures, wetlands, ponds, as well as some crop fields. Kramer will oversee sustainable cropping and grazing on Whiterock's working lands, as well as extensive oak savanna and prairie restoration efforts throughout the vast property.

Kramer will also further develop Whiterock's nonprofit mission of encouraging public engagement with the landscape via a variety of options that highlight the unique place-based characteristics of the Middle Raccoon River Valley. Points of engagement include the historic Garst farm, visited by Khrushchev in 1959, and some of the best star-gazing in the state. Nearby Coon Rapids hosts not just the state's best burger (a local restaurant was named the winner in 2012 in a statewide contest sponsored by the Iowa Beef Industry Council), but also a growing rural arts movement.

It's nonprofit organization with the mission of encouraging people to enjoy and take care of Iowa's great outdoor resources

Whiterock offers camping, lodgings (at the Garst farmhouse or various cottages), a canoe service, and event hosting at its visitor center or a prohibition-era dance barn. Reservations can be made online.

Meanwhile, a growing number of volunteers assist with prairie and timber burns, plant and bird identification, property clean-ups, and control of invasive species. Many other people come just to picnic and fish, to use the 10-miles of hard-surface trails that join Whiterock to Coon Rapids, or to wander the dirt paths that extend miles into a wild landscape. There is a trail-use fee for horses, but hikers and mountain-bikers are currently free to roam.

Kramer's biggest initial project will be developing an entire new internal $2 million trail network, designed and engineered according to the state-of-the-art sustainable standards. his "soft" dirt trail network will wind a full 30 miles throughout the vast property, providing one of Iowa's best equestrian and mountain-biking experiences. As soon as fundraising for the project is completed, construction will begin.

Kramer brings to the table extensive nonprofit leadership and conservation experience:

* He comes to Iowa from the Mojave Desert of Southern California where he led the Anza-Borrego Foundation. That nonprofit supports the conservation, recreation, and public-education mission of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the second-largest state park in the nation at 1,000 square miles.