Saturday, October 09, 2010

A walk in the park

Someone asked me the other day who Bob White was, assuming from a considerable distance that Wayne County’s state park, Bobwhite, had to be named for someone. Which is not the case.

Wouldn’t you think by now that everyone would know that a bobwhite is a quail so called because of its distinctive call, “bob-WHITE” or “bob-Bob-WHITE” depending upon circumstance. Geez.

They’re small birds, lots of fun to watch (my mother, on the farm, kept basins of water on the south porch for the benefit of wildlife that needed it and quite often the bobwhites would come in to drink --- great entertainment viewed through the dining room’s double south window). They’re also a popular game bird for reasons I don’t understand since there’s not much meat there. But some folks feel the need to shoot their fellow critters even when they’re not hungry. Go figure.

Anyhow, that’s the source of Bobwhite State Park’s name. The park, maintained by Wayne County Conservation although owned by the state, is located two miles west of Allerton. You can also approach it from the west, but expect frustration right now if you try to do that. The bridge that spans Bobwhite Lake is being replaced and if you drive in from the west you’ll discover that you can’t get here from there without a detour onto gravel --- not a bad thing, but some folks can be big sissies when it comes to gravel roads, especially folks from California who for some reason expect everything to be paved.

It’s a great park, divided into a unit north of the pavement and a unit south of the pavement. I like the south side better. But both sides benefit from county rather than state maintenance. Iowa’s DNR, facing budget cuts, has cut back on maintenance at many state parks --- including Chariton’s Red Haw --- which looks distinctly unkempt these days. At Bobwhite, areas that were intended to look like lawn still do.

As far as I’m concerned, the real treasure at Bobwhite is the trail system, about five miles of it, that twists and turns through undeveloped woodland and prairie south of the mown picnic area. The trails are perfect for a putzer like me --- well maintained, equipped with strategically placed benches and sparsely peppered with well-designed signs that tell you in many instances exactly what it is you’re looking at.

The signage can be credited to a Wayne High School graduate named Cody Morgan whose “A Walk in the Park” project involved raising the funds to finance and coordinating the placement of signs to replicate an earlier project by Lorena Blount, a legendary Wayne County educator.

This really is the time of year to fully appreciate native grasses and Bobwhite trails are one of the best places around to do that since substantial plantations of several varieties have been planted and nurtured and identified (including pampas grass, an import from South America that while pretty also is invasive and gives prairie purists the sniffles).

I managed most of trail system late Friday, but ran out of time before the final leg so will head back down soon --- before Oct. 16 when the early muzzleloader deer season opens. Not that you can hunt in Iowa’s state parks, because you can’t, but since all of our parks serve as refuges for deer some hunters’ strategies involve concealing themselves just outside park boundaries with their noses and their weapons pointed toward the fence waiting for Bambi to emerge. Some of these hunters are not the brightest bulbs in Mother Nature’s chandelier, finding it a challenge to differentiate four-legged critters from two, so it’s just as well to be on the safe side and aware of the seasons when poking around in the woods in the fall and winter. And for heaven’s sake, wear orange or red --- not camo.



Ken said...


So when do we find out about LaVern "Hack" Hackney? I'm a Wayne Countian, but I don't recognize that name.


Anonymous said...

>Not that you can hunt in Iowa’s state parks

Not always. We went for a walk last Sunday and picked a state park for that reason (Palisades-Kepler). I was greatly disappointed to see a sign at the entrance warning that bowhunters were seeking deer in the park under some herd management program. I talked to a ranger who said he knew of one guy out hunting in the park that day. We stayed mostly on the tourist routes that day.

Bill H.