Although much of the media attention following Don Canney’s death focused on his many achievements in the urban part of Cedar Rapids, he also had an amazing impact on open space, flood reduction and the Indian Creek Nature Center.

In 1968, the City received a massive grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development that was matched by local taxpayers to purchase about 1000 acres of flood-prone land now known as the Greenbelt.   The idea was to buy this land and keep it as open space.  When the river was high, this low land would fill with water; but since no development was permitted, there would be no homes, schools or businesses damaged.   The Greenbelt also became the location of the Sac and Fox, Iowa’s first national recreation trail, and the sewer leading to the then new water pollution control facility was built through the Greenbelt, enabling Cedar Rapids to more effectively cleanse waste water.   Portions of the Greenbelt were leased to the infant Indian Creek Nature Center in 1973.

As mayor, Don supported these innovative and forward-thinking initiatives, and residents today enjoy the dividends.   Often he worked in the background and let others receive credit.

Don was a welcoming and genuinely friendly man.  When Marion and I moved here from Kansas in 1978, I called his office to introduce myself.   I expected a secretary to answer the phone, but he did.  When I explained that we had just moved to Cedar Rapids he said, “Then I want to meet you.  Please come to my office”.   We did and had a pleasant chat.   He seemed delighted that we had come to Cedar Rapids.  For the remainder of the time as mayor, he supported the Nature Center and was always encouraging.   I will miss him.

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We’re getting ready for our biggest event of the year…Maple Syrup Festival!  Hard to believe it will be here in just a few days.  Saturday, March 5th and Sunday, March 6th we’ll be flipping pancakes and boiling sap into syrup from 8:30am until 12:30pm.  It’s such a fun event and we have families come back year after year.  Lots of good music, good conversation, great food…and don’t tell the kids but they just might learn something!  You can walk through our educational stations and experience what syruping methods were used in Native American and Colonial eras. 

Of course most people think the best part is the breakfast – a stack pancakes fresh off the griddle…butter melting slowly and a river of thick, sweet maple syrup cascading over the stack. Excuse me, I need a moment.  Okay… sausages, coffee, juice, milk…more pancakes.  Yummy.  Buy your tickets in advance ($7/adults; $4/kids 3-12)  and save $1 over buying them at the door.  See you out here for the sweetest celebration of the year…at least until Honey Fest!

Yes, I know we’ve been quiet lately but we’re working on something really exciting we’ll be ready to unveil shortly!  In the meantime, we’ve got a few special programs to tell you about.

First, PADDLE DAY is coming this Saturday, Jan 29th.  If you’re a kayaker, a canoeist or other paddle enthusiast, you won’t want to miss this!  Eco-adventurer John Pearson will share some of his recent excursions across America in a beautiful and exciting photo-narrative.  John Craun will tell you why Isle Royale is a MUST on your destination list and he’ll show you his latest creation – an Aleutian biadarka!  It’s a beautiful wooden kayak he’s constructed that you’ll definitely want to see.   Registration opens at 12:30…cost is $7/ICNC members; $10/non-members

We’ve got three workshops coming up for folks interested in chickens.  First, noted author and co-host of the wildly popular “Chicken Whisperer” radio show – Patricia Freeman – will Skype in to the Nature Center on Sunday, Feb 6th at 2pm for a presentation on integrating chickens with gardens and increasing your backyard production.  We’ll also have a presentation on coops and fencing.  If you’re raising chickens or thinking about it, you’ll want to be here!  Cost is $7/ICNC members; $10/non-members.

And if you’re thinking you want to raise chickens and want to know more about it, come to our Basic Chicken Workshop on Saturday, February 19th at 2pm.  This is the workshop required by the City of Cedar Rapids before a permit will be issued for residents to raise hens in their backyards.  This same workshop will also be presented on Wednesday, March 2nd at 7:00pm at the new Theisen’s location (1800 51st St NE…formerly Econofoods).  Thanks to our friends at Cargill and Nutrena for helping us with the Theisen’s workshop!  Cost for either workshop is $7/ICNC members; $10/non-members.

If you’re interested in more information or to register for these events, give us a call at 319-362-0664.  See you at the Nature Center!

Are you getting ready for winter? The bugs are! Join Indian Creek Nature Center and expert “bug guy” Joe Zito for Bug Academy this Saturday, October 9th at 1 PM. Joe will tell us all about how bugs stay snug in the winter!

For more info, visit the program calendar on our website!