New learning opportunities

New outdoor education classes for adults will be hosted this spring and summer at Briggs Woods Park through a new program from Hamilton County Conservation.

The Legacy Learning center will host six classes at the park, with the first class on pine needle basket weaving being held on April 16 and 17. Brian Lammers, executive director of Hamilton County Conservation, said that a feasibility study found that such a program was quite unique.

“This is the kind of center that the state of Iowa does not have anywhere,” Lammers said. “We want to be able to offer adult, outdoor education recreational learning for a wide variety of classes.”

That feasibility study was done after Hamilton County was designated an Iowa Great Place by a state program. The county submitted an idea for a However, funding was pulled from the great places program. The county planned to build an outdoor education learning center with the funds from the program. However, Lammers said that funding was pulled from the state program before the facility could be built.

Still, the idea received a full feasibility study. That study recommended holding the classes despite not having the independent facility as planned.

“They concurred that yes, north-central Iowa does not have something that you’re proposing anywhere and this is a unique opportunity. If you look at a 60-mile radius around Webster City, you’re looking at 750,000 people within that radius,” Lammers said. “People will drive that for a class easily.”

In addition to the pine needle baskets, the Legacy Learning Center will host a class on fly fishing on May 22 and 23, a class on creating hand built pots from natural materials in June, an outdoor photography class in late July, a wood carving class and a class on nature painting in early September. Lammers said classes will be put together for the winter and fall after feedback from the spring and summer classes. Ideally, Lammers said the classes will be held year-round at Briggs Woods Park.

“It’s just a unique learning opportunity that has not been offered before in north-central Iowa. This is something that we’re looking at a different age group versus the other environmental education courses that we offer through conservation,” Lammers said.

The classes offered so far last a couple or a few days each. As such, Lammers said the cabin project at Briggs Woods Park ties into the Legacy Learning Center project. He said the idea of the project was to try and bring in year-round revenue for the park as well as bringing in more local business from visitors.

“Winter time, obviously, with the camp grounds and golf course shut down, it’s hard to bring in revenue,” Lammers said. “That’s the toughest time of the year for us.”

The newest cabin built was opened in October of 2012. It was named the Legacy Cabin because the funds to build the cabin were borrowed from the park’s legacy account. The rest of the planned cabins were funded through work with the Board of Supervisors. When the board refinanced the hospital bond, according to Lammers, they used some of those savings to use about $600,000 from that bond saving to build five cabins.

However, Lammers is reviewing bids to build the cabins. He said they still may be able to build all five cabins, but the cost may limit them to three or four.

“Some of hose bids came in higher than the conservation board felt it should have been,” Lammers said.

Two of the planned cabins will be very similar to the Legacy cabin, which can house 15 people, has two bathrooms, a loft and a full kitchen. Others will be similar in size, but will not have a loft and can still house six to eight people comfortably, according to Lammers. Those cabins are planned to be built and opened by Labor Day weekend.