Dragoon Trail Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America, Ankeny IA
Dragoon Trail Chapter Izaak Walton League History as of January 2012
Written by Doyle Witt
1st Chapter location - Wagner Park - Ankeny Iowa
The Dragoon Trail Chapter received its charter, constitution and bylaws on the 14th day of December, 1966. The charter was started due to a common interest in hunting, fishing and fellowship. The chapter had strong ties with and was sponsored by the Des Moines Chapter, Izaak Walton League. There were many charter members. Money was raised strictly from dues, membership meals and raffles. Meetings were held twice a month in a log cabin shelter house in Ankeny Wagner Park just west of Parkview school on 1st street. Membership activities at that time were conservation programs, pancake dinners, DNR wildlife programs, films from local libraries and programs about member's hunting/fishing trips. Hunter education was held in conjunction with local scout groups. Pot luck wild game dinners were very common. When the shelter house was destroyed a new location was needed to continue activities.
2nd Chapter location - Floyd Harrison Farm - 1969
I joined the chapter at this time In1969 the chapter activities were held at Floyd Harrison's farm house located one mile south of 1st street on SE Frisk Drive directly east of Ankeny. There were around 60 members. Farming produced the income. Meetings were held in the old farm house but for larger meals they met at the Frontier grocery store on west 1st street. Trap shooting was held on Sunday afternoons and after membership meetings with a hand pull trap that was quickly replaced by an electric trap. Membership meeting activities were the same format. Crop share farming at the farm was a major chapter activity and members actually tilled the ground, planted, harvested and sold crops. This continued until a seed contract was entered with Pioneer. Former Ankeny mayor Merle Johnson's father Milford Johnson supplied the farm equipment. The Ikes supplied the labor. Walking the beans to pull weeds was usually followed by homemade ice cream. The farming operation was successful. At this time the chapter also bought and released quail and pheasants on a regular basis throughout the spring and summer. This practice was stopped due to objections raised by the Iowa DNR. Members also sat on the board of the Ankeny Recycling Center. At this time recycling was basically a new concept. Some members volunteered to man the center on select days of the month collecting cans and bottles. This activity with the State Division's effort eventually led to the current Iowa Bottle Bill legislation in force today. Also at this time, DNR programs were held by Charlie "Butch" Olofson who was an officer with the Iowa DNR. These programs were on new outdoor activities laws and regulations. The Harrison family stopped the crop share arrangement due to a son returning from military duty and the chapter had to find a new and more permanent location.
3rd Chapter Location: 110th Street North of Ankeny early 1970s
I was elected to my 1st board position in the fall of 1975. In July, 1975 the chapter purchased 12 acres of land from Ora Hildreth located 2 miles north of Ankeny on 110th street. Way out in the country. The contract was for $12,000, $2,000 down payment, 7 1/2% interest with 10 year payments. The pasture ground was in the Four Mile Creek flood plain which split the 12 acre plot and limited many activities and made any expansion difficult. The new grounds did provide a more permanent home for the membership but most were also aware of the potential rapid growth of Ankeny and its affect on the chapter's future. A donated building from Pioneer was moved from Johnston as a chapter house, a well for water was dug - twice, much grading and gravel was needed for parking as well as a long driveway, general clearing was needed, gates and fencing were installed, trees were planted, a storage shed was constructed and one ATA regulation trap field with lights was built mostly in the first year two years !! Eventually the electric trap was replaced by an automatic trap machine for safety and efficiency. As the time passed a very small dirt berm was built for small pistol and muzzleloader practice. The hand pull trap from the Harrison farm was given to Polk County Conservation for public use. Much of the street expansion of East 1st street's concrete and new hot concrete was used for creek stabilization, chapter house flooring, trap house and concrete pads. A broken piece of siding from the new Ankeny high school was used as the top of the trap house. Trap shooting was the main activity after the move. ATA shoots, belt buckle shoots and trap leagues were established with shooting on Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays. There were also many group private shoots during this time. The membership meeting activities were still the same format. An archery tower from a set of steel stair steps was also installed for bow hunting practice. Many chapter members became State Hunter Ed and Boating Instructors at this time. Unfortunately in the early years, the members interested in farming quickly left the chapter and other longtime past members left the organization mainly due to the hard work of the property improvements, many personal disagreements about direction and a lack of funds. After about 3 years, membership dropped to around 20 paid members at best and very few volunteered to hold officer and board positions. Even though trap cash flow income paid the monthly bills and was a popular activity, the 10 year contract on the land and past spending became an overwhelming burden in about the 4th year. At this time and after much discussion about limited outside financing options, a meeting was held with the Iowa Division representative to discuss any state/national financing options or to simply turn in the charter. At that meeting, Less Lichlighter recommended the best approach was to talk to the Des Moines chapter board and ask for a loan to protect the state/national organization from losing the property and improvements. He also felt that in the future, Ankeny would be a great place for an Ikes organization. At their board meeting, Des Moines offered a loan of $10,000 to pay off the contract and assume the mortgage. At this time Des Moines had a membership of around 2500 and their board had ongoing interest in a rural area for members to shoot and to conduct other chapter/state activities. They also recommended that the building be remodeled and expanded, the purchase of a commercial refrigerator and stove, to make any other improvements to generate new member interest and they offered ideas based on their past experiences. They also suggested the chapter use their Tuesday meeting nights to promote future events. With this as a catalyst, members used the lumber from an old barn in the expansion of the chapter house. Very little new materials were purchased and all labor was donated. One of the major changes was to hold benefit meals and programs. Special fund raising meals for State, National and DNR projects were held. Some were the Save our Streams, Iowa Trout Stream Project and TIP (Turn in Poachers) programs . We also gave a conservation scholarship for two years. We initiated funds and made repairs of the trout streams in the Highlandville, Iowa area. Hog roasts, Sweet Corn Feeds, Uncle Ikes programs for kids and National Hunting and Fishing days activities were some of those held. Public Wild Game Feeds held at the Ankeny Lakeside Center, Firestone Union Hall and the Catholic church grew to serving over 200 on a regular basis. The chapter received many deer car kills on a regular basis and many membership hunting trips were used to provide game for the yearly feed. The members went to local gun shows and other Ikes chapters to sell raffle tickets for the shotgun raffle. The chapter also built regulation horseshoe courts and had sanctioned events on the chapter grounds that led to the State Fair competition. Butch Olofson also started the Iowa Hunter Ed program using Ankeny members as some of the 1st instructors of the new mandatory program. He also started hands on shotgun shooting during the Ankeny classes on a trial basis. The range at Big Creek is named in his honor over the development of the Hunter Ed program. The Ankeny Fire and Police department held yearly outings on the grounds for many years. Also, a fall sports show was held with another organization at the 4-H building on the state fairgrounds. One of the first annual banquets with Whitetails Unlimited was started at our chapter house. This banquet is still being held yearly at the Vittoria Lodge in October of each year to raise funds for projects. Membership at this location went to over 120 in about 2 years after the construction was completed. The loan and mortgage was retired with the Des Moines Ikes in only a few short years. After all debt was retired and the years passed, it appeared that the property in general was limited for the expansion of activities. This was mainly due to the lack of usable ground available and the yearly flooding of Four Mile Creek. Interest fell in horseshoes and in continuing the benefit meals and the chapter experienced another decline in membership to around 60 to 80. It became difficult to find a rental building and the wild game feed and gun raffle went back to being a chapter function and eventually ended completely. With the constant yearly expansion of Ankeny, many wondered what the future would hold for the present location. Many questioned whether if it was really worth borrowing money to rebuild or correct the much needed repairs to the chapter house . After seeing construction was evident in the adjacent land to the east , the newly completed Briarwood addition to the South and due to many rumors and conclusions being drawn, the board approached the city of Ankeny Planning and Zoning for information as to how the chapter would be affected by the neighborhood growth.
4th Chapter location: Rural Elkhart: 2001
In the fall of 2001, after 2 years of meetings with Ankeny and Polk county officials and much discussion, the chapter moved to two miles south and 1/2 mile east of Elkhart. This is approximately 4 1/2 miles due east of the old location. Developer Dennis Albaugh, in compliance with the city of Ankeny, moved the facilities to a bare 40 acre farm field owned by his uncle, Donald Albaugh. With the Rottland Homes development to the east of the 110th street location, Mr Albaugh had to provide to the city land for a parks requirement. The 110th street property met this requirement and he built the new site based on a city budget. The arrangement agreed upon was replacement in kind of the existing facility. The new property was adjacent on two sides to the Errington Marsh public wildlife area. Due to safety and shot fall requirements, the property move required a parcel of land larger than 12 acres. In the process, the chapter had to purchase 5 additional acres and had a 2 year option to buy the remaining acres. Dennis Albaugh provided financing for the 5 acres at $3500 per acre or $17,500. The chapter also borrowed $5000 from the IWLA state division emergency fund for a short term loan. The chapter also had a bank loan for a new mower. These loans were paid off in about two years mainly due increased membership, dues increases, farm rental and the annual Whitetail Banquet. The remaining acres to the 40 acre parcel were purchased in 2005 for $4000 per acre, $90,774 at 6% for 5 years. Financing was arranged by member Tom Dentel a officer with the 1st Bank of Colfax.. This loan was paid off by mid 2009. The new facilities were designed by Snyder & Associates in Ankeny and design complied with Polk County, DNR, ATA and NRA standard safety and lead fall requirements. With the extra space one additional trap house was built with room for expansion to four fields. A 100 foot x 100 yard berm for pistol and rifle shooting was built to replace the small berm at the previous location. The shed and archery tower were moved and an archery range with new targets was built. Many trees and bushes were required by a standard county zoning buffering plan. The Northern Polk Chapter of Pheasants Forever provided the established trees to the north end of the property from another local developer. New plantings of evergreen trees and bushes were done on 3 sides of the property according to the required county plan. A retention pond was built to hold water draining from the ranges and to prevent it from entering the Donald Albaugh property to the west. Underground tiling was also needed to remove the water collected east of the trap range. This ditch was made due to extensive dirt needed for the large berm. Much of the work was donated by many local construction and supply companies. The chapter house was replaced to exact dimensions but a porch was added instead of moving a shelter that remains at the old property today. A new shelter was then built by the chapter behind the range. Many power poles and spools were donated and used for the trap range lights, range shelter and parking lot boundaries. After receiving and cleanup of the 110th street property, the city of Ankeny renovated the old chapter house and Parks uses the property for various purposes. With the additional land, the tillable acres are cash rented to the previous owner, Donald Albaugh. Again farming is a part of the chapter income. During the first 2 years the chapter grew sweet corn and sold it by the dozen to friends, neighbors and on the streets of Ankeny. This soon ended due to raccoon damage. Due to the extremely wet marshy nature of the land, in 2005 the chapter applied for and was awarded a grant of $5,000 from the Izaak Walton League Endowment to restore part of the wetland area. This will provide an ongoing conservation project for the organization if the area is taken out of production. The grant will be awarded to the chapter on a cost share basis based on restoration efforts. Due to the move from Ankeny to Elkhart, the chapter again saw a short-term loss of members due to the move "way out in the country". But the improvements provided a much nicer and safer shooting experience for a new inflow of many new members. With this type of improved facility, membership increased to 300 in 2008. This has changed the emphasis of the board to focus on designing the best possible shooting facility for its membership. Many other shooting and education programs have been introduced to the board for review.. It appears that the Dragoon Trail Chapter has been given more life !! Hopefully the support and effort of many Dragoon Trail Chapter presidents, boards and interested members will be continued to provide membership activities, conservation funds and outdoors sports for many years to come.
2012 Update … after 10 years of growth at the Elkhart location
After improving the facility over the last 10 years, chapter membership rose to over 400 members in 2011! Due to this increased interest, many improvements were needed for growth in member requested activities. Over previous years, board plans were approved by the county and construction started in October 2011. In 2010 and 2011, weekly competition pistol shoots were well attended with more matches in the planning stage. To enhance this activity, farm land directly south of the rifle range was converted into additional pistol ranges. Additional tiling across the Albaugh property was added to improve water drainage. Due to excavation, a large pond area for water retention is now located east and northwest of the newly built pistol ranges. In the past few years, Tuesday night trap and the newly formed high school trap team attendance increased to high levels. This prompted the trap range to be fully expanded from 2 to 4 ranges with new traps and voice releases. The archery range was also relocated to the front gate area and also received additional targets with wooden covers. Planning was also approved for a chapter house expansion at a later date. Security cameras were added in key locations as well as a keypad gate system for much improved north gate entry. Due to county requirements, a concrete handicap parking area and improved dumpster area were also built in 2011 to enhance our needs. 2011 was a Big Year at the Ikes!! Due to these changes, more property work will need to be completed in 2012 to obtain occupancy. Projects include additional fencing of the property on the north and south as well as additional tree and bush planting in the buffer zones. Shelter areas need to be built on the new pistol range as well as grass seeding on the bare construction. There are also plans in place for additional storage areas and additional educational classes. After completion of the chapter grounds improvements in 2012 many more member activities will continue for years to come.