Iowa's System of State Parks Began 100 Years Ago

Jun 5, 2017

Iowa’s state park system is turning 100 years old this year. The anniversary comes as state budget cuts threaten their upkeep.

Backbone State Park was Iowa's first. The original map is on display in the special collections area in Parks Library at Iowa State.
Credit Amy Mayer, IPR

It was 1917 when the act to establish Iowa’s state parks passed the Legislature. An associate professor of landscape architecture at Iowa State, Heidi Hohmann, is studying the history of the parks. She says there was growing interest at the time in preserving the scenic beauty of the land. As a result, she says, state parks became popular recreation areas.

“I think parks have a social meaning and a cultural meaning beyond their scientific value as preserves,” she says.

Hohmann says the parks remain vital to cultural life a century after their creation.

“They’re incredibly important both for their resource values, for the species of animals and plants they protect, and they’re also important for citizens in terms of recreational opportunities,” she says.

Original drawings on display in the state park centennial exhibit include designs for entrances to the parks done by landscape architecture students at Iowa State.
Credit Amy Mayer, IPR

A tight budget is keeping the Department of Natural Resources from hiring all the summer workers it typically does to maintain them.