IWE Success Stories
Planter Plates & The Whiterock Conservancy
by Fred Kesten, Area 1
The Whiterock Conservancy is a non-profit land trust dedicated to conserving and protecting Iowa’s natural resources, and to engaging the public with the environment through recreation and education. Located on seven acres, including the historic Garst farm, which Nikita Khrushchev visited in 1959, Whiterock Conservancy is on the south side of Iowa Highway 141 in Coon Rapids.
In September, 2009, Liz Garst, the Whiterock Board of Directors Treasurer, contacted the Iowa Waste Exchange for help finding a home for thousands of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) corn planter plates that occupied 8,000 cubic feet of needed storage space. The plates are multi-colored and were once used to regulate the space between corn seeds during planting. The Garst family’s seed company gave them away with seed.
Since the plates are HDPE, there was immediate interest from two companies that have markets that recycle materials into other products. But using the more favored waste hierarchy of reuse versus recycling, more creative ideas prevailed. Another local non-profit, Creating Great Places, developed the idea to use planter plates for artistic projects at Whiterock and in Coon Rapids. One of the pieces, called “The Sentinels” by local artist Doug Carpenter, is in Whiterock’s Main Campground.
Other Doug Carpenter projects include an ear of corn on the chain link fence on the south side of Highway 141 and the stage backdrop at Riverside Park just northeast of Coon Rapids.
Artist Matthew Farley recently completed a new sculpture at Riverside Sculpture Park across from the Roswell and Elizabeth Garst historic farmstead. Named “Shaping the Landscape”, it is made entirely of recycled materials, including angle iron from several dismantled windmills and 1,800 of the planter plates.
It’s estimated that 4,000 planter plates have been used in these and other projects, and thus were diverted from the landfill. The projects have enhanced the identification of the area’s heritage and points of interest at the Conservancy. There is still an inventory of plates awaiting new ideas.
Visitors to Whiterock are welcome year around, and are invited to stop by the remodeled Bur Oak Visitors Center, to say hello, get oriented and receive information.
Visit http://www.whiterockconservancy.org/index.html to learn more about overnight accommodations and other activities.