New projects at Osborne Grants benefit schoolhouse, Nature Center

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One of two grants recently received by Clayton County Conservation will be used to create interpretive panels for the 1908 schoolhouse in Pioneer Village.
One of two grants recently received by Clayton County Conservation will be used to create interpretive panels for the 1908 schoolhouse in Pioneer Village.

By Pam Reinig
Register Editor

The Clayton County Conservation Board has been awarded two grants totaling more than $9,300 from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA). Funds will be used to research, design, print, and install interpretive panels near the schoolhouse in Pioneer Village and to create murals for the Nature Center.

The grants are part of a $2.1 million distribution for art, film, history and cultural offerings. Several IDCA divisions were involved in the decision-making including the two groups that funded the Osborne projects, the State Historical Society of Iowa and the Iowa Arts Council.  
The schoolhouse panels will give the history of the structure and its use. Built in 1908, it was originally located in Garnavillo where it was a parochial school for St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. Donated several years ago by the Andrew Puelz family, it’s similar to the one-room schoolhouse children living in the Osborne area attended at the turn of the 20th century. “We’re still researching the (specific school) they attended but we think it was probably Cox Creek No. 7, which is still located south of Osborne on Highway 13 at the Mederville turn,” said Molly Scherf, Osborne office manager.

The schoolhouse is open to the public during park hours. Visitors can see inside the building through the doorway and windows but can only enter during a pre-arranged tour.

“We would like visitors to have a tour experience when guides aren’t available,” Scherf continued. “To do this there needs to be historical interpretation visible to the public.” That’s where the panels come in.

The panels will be a collaborative effort between employees of Clayton County Conservation and Northeast Iowa Research and Development. Scherf invites others to get involved, too.

“We would appreciate the public’s help by sharing any historical documents, photos or first-hand accounts of attending a country schoolhouse in Cox Creek Township,” Scherf said.

Scherf hopes interpretive panels will eventually be placed in front of all the buildings in Pioneer Village. The area also includes a cabin, blacksmith shop, depot and general store.

The grant for the schoolhouse work was $1,324. The panels could be finished and in place by Heritage Days in October.

A second grant for $7,993 was awarded for the creation of three large murals in the Nature Center exhibit area.

“For several years, we have been working to update this area,” said naturalist Abbey Harkrader. “Interactive displays have been a focus and include projects like the Augmented Reality Topography Sandbox that kids can interact with to see how rain and runoff interacts with the land. A new cave exhibit allows children to learn about caves, algific slopes, and Karst topography while crawling through the exhibit, and new static exhibits on a slatwall include a history of Clayton County and a revolving seasonal ecology display.”

“Our director asked me to develop a mural project for the nature center to complement all the new exhibits,” she continued. “The mural project, ‘Nature All Around Us,’ is designed to help visitors to immerse in nature and to complement the educational programming done in the nature center. Enhancing the visitor’s experience through art will lead to deeper understanding, awareness, and appreciation of both art and our natural world.”

    The murals will range in size from 115 square feet to 235 square feet.  

“The first mural will be the largest and will cover the whole back interior wall of the nature center classroom,” Harkrader explained. “This mural will be a river ecology scene that will visually tie the exhibits of this room together through art.”

The second mural will surround the newly built Karst cave interactive display and will be a deep woodland cave scene. The third mural will be a forest floor scene and will incorporate some of the live animal displays.

The Clayton County Conservation Board soon will accept proposals from artists who would like to participate in the project. Only artists within a 75-mile range of Clayton County will be considered. Selection will be based on artists’ style and ability to create a realistic habitat mural. Harkrader said the work is expected to begin in October with completion by May 1, 2020.

It’s not likely the Osborne projects would’ve moved forward at this time without the grants. Future enhancements will be jeopardized if these opportunities are no longer available, warned Conservation Director Jenna Pollock.

“Collaboration between the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Department of Natural Resources like the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) funds are integral to the development and momentum of projects in the conservation field in Iowa,” Pollock said. “These dollars allow us to educate and make connections across curriculums through diverse mediums to reach a broader audience of eager learners.”

“REAP continues to have a far reaching impact in Clayton County from trails in Monona, the Motor Mill Bridge, art and interpretation enhancements at Osborne—just to name a few of the momentous projects within the last decade,” she continued. “Unfortunately, the REAP program has never been funded to its maximum potential by the Iowa Legislature and its sunset date of 2021 will likely go into effect despite the overwhelming financial requests through the multiple grant programs the REAP formula supplements. Without REAP historic revitalization, natural resource management, and cultural resources will suffer greatly.”

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