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GRC land officially gets preserve status

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By Joel Stevens, Associate Editor

More than 900 acres in Mills County is Iowa’s newest dedicated preserve.

Sitting on a 906 acre parcel of land on the southeast edge of the Glenwood Resource Center property, the Glenwood State Archaeological Preserve is Iowa’s 96th and now largest dedicated preserve. The site holds more than 100 recorded archaeological sites ranging from 5,000 years in age to early Euro-American settlements some 150 years ago. Most significant of the archaeological finds are 27 earth lodge sites related to the Glenwood culture that lived in the area around 1300 A.D.

In a Oct. 22 reception at the Glenwood Resource Center, state senators Hubert Houser, Mike Gronstal and Dick Dearden, state representative Greg Forristall, Iowa Department of Natural Resources Director Richard Leopold and Mills County Supervisor Ron Kohn were among the 100 on hand for the official awarding of state preserve status to the Glenwood site.

Houser, the District 49 state senator, said the overwhelming support exhibited by the attendance at Thursday’s reception was key in helping preserve a slice of Iowa history unique to this area. He calls the preserve a “window” into 1325 A.D.

“(Former Glenwood Resource Center Superintendent) Dr. (William) Campbell came to me and said ‘We need to preserve this. This is a significant piece of property and we cannot let it be sold off into public domain.’ This success has had many parents,” Houser said.

More than 20 years ago, then GRC superintendent William Campbell first proposed the idea of protecting the site that is largely credited with being discovered by Glenwood archaeologists D.D. Davis and Paul Rowe in the 1920s. In the 1930s and 40s patients at the GRC conducted extensive excavations in the area.

Since Campbell’s retirement, the project has been spearheaded by Shirley Frederiksen and Kathy Kahue of Golden Hills Resource Conservation and Development with the help of area state legislators. Kahue is the project manager for the Loess Hills National Scenic Byway Council overseeing the Glenwood preserve.

“There’s definitely potential for tourism with the preserve, but that’s not the primary reason for doing it,” said Kahue. “We did this to preserve this area’s archaeological qualities.”

State preserves are awarded the highest protection of the state allowing the areas to be maintained in their natural condition as historical and educational landmarks.

Of the 275 Glenwood culture archaeological sites in Iowa, 10 percent are in the Glenwood State Preserve. The Glenwood people of the area, the cultural parents of the modern Pawnee, Arikara and Wichita tribes, were the areas first farmers, hunters, trappers and traders.

Cindy Peterson, chair of the State Preserves Advisory Board, said protecting and recognizing this parcel preserves a unique cultural, anthropological and archaeological history of the Loess Hills. She places the Glenwood preserve among the Wittrock Indian Village and Gitchie Manitou in the northwest corner of the state, as one of Iowa’s most unique state preserves.

“Only a small part of this archaeological site has been archaeologically surveyed so undoubtedly there are many sites yet to be discovered,” she said. “The dedication and preservation of this unique resource, the Glenwood Archaeological State Preserve, ensures that all residents and visitors to western Iowa will have the chance to know and appreciate the people who came here before us.”

Leopold said the preserve will benefit not just Mills County and Iowa, but the region and the country.

“There’s environmental impacts, wild game, trails that exist now and will in the future as well as natural habitats,” Leopold said.

The Mills County Conservation Board will take over control of the preserve from the Iowa DNR.