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For over 50 years the lake at Central Park has been the hub of Jones County Conservation’s recreational opportunities. Located in the heart of Jones County, residents have benefited from its presence by swimming, fishing, paddling or strolling along its shoreline, in addition to its annual $7.84 million positive economic impact.
Unfortunately, over the years, the continual runoff from its watershed has impacted the lake. Because of a lake’s natural ability to retain sediments and nutrients, an excess began to accumulate, which has lowered the lake’s water quality for people, fish and wildlife.
The Jones County Conservation Board began working closely with local residents and conservation partners to restore the lake, starting in the watershed. This work has included 1) acquisition of 79 acres within the watershed just upstream of the lake. This was critical to permanently stabilize the soil and nutrients on the property and create a greater buffer around the lake; 2) installation of 4 septic systems, reclamation of the lagoon, and construction of two wetlands. This ensured water from recreational activities and the watershed were treated before entering the lake; and 3) construction of a one and a half acre wetland and a seven acre pond completed in the spring 2016.
The final phase of the project includes dredging silt from the lake, stabilizing the shoreline, and looking for opportunities to improve fish habitat and access. An updated boat ramp, dock and parking lot will improve boat and paddler access to the lake. Fishing access will be enhanced with an ADA accessible parking lot, shoreline fishing access, and fishing pier. Improvements to the beach and paddle craft rental access will allow easier parking, reduced slope on the beach surface, and an ADA accessible sidewalk to connect them.
To start the process, the lake will be drained sometime after Labor Day. Prior, game fish will be removed from the lake and placed in the newly constructed 7 acre pond, making it ready for use, or distributed to other ponds within the county. Sediment dredging, fish habitat, shoreline work, and beach, fishing access, and boat ramp improvements will begin the summer of 2017 and extend into the spring of 2018.
The Jones County Conservation Board continues to work with the Department of Natural Resource’s Lake Restoration Program and pursue funding sources such as Parks to People Grant Wood Loop, Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association and private donors.