After three years of planning, Jasper County Conservation’s Uhlenhopp Arboretum is now open to the public.
The 250-acre park contains seven ponds – each named after the days of the week – miles of prairie grass and plenty of opportunities for foraging. After a year-long delay due to damage done by the derecho, nearly everything in the park is ready for visitors.
The land that has become Uhlenhopp Arboretum, 2706 E. 146th St. N., was willed to county conservation in 2018.
“The whole place was left to the county by Elliot Uhlenhopp,” Jasper County Conservation Director Keri Van Zante said. “He was a professor over at Grinnell College who had this land in his family for generations. He planted thousands of trees here. That’s how we got the name, actually. Elliot always called this place ‘The Arb’ and we didn’t have the heart to change it.”
Within the arboretum are miles of trails through the prairie grasses for visitors to explore.
“Since we opened on Aug. 6 we’ve seen visitors to the park almost all day, every day,” Ethan Vander Pol, the head of maintenance at the arboretum, said.
Vander Pol was hired three years ago by conservation after working as an intern. The department’s latest project means a lot to Vander Pol.
“This whole place really is Ethan’s baby. He was the one who drew up and presented the plans and has been the one managing the place ever since,” Van Zante said.
Fishing will be allowed at all of the arboretum’s ponds, but there aren’t any fish in most of the ponds.
“We’re looking into working with the DNR to stock fish in all of the ponds hopefully by next summer,” Van Zante said. “We encourage people who visit to forage responsibly. We have apple and pear trees, raspberries, nuts and mushrooms out here for people to take. But we ask that people don’t take rocks or pick flowers, because those don’t come back once they’re gone.”
The only area not ready for visitors is the cabin available for rent on the grounds.
The cabin still needs some finishing touches but will be available for rent at the end of September. Once it opens, Van Zante and Vander Pol believe it will have visitors year round including in the summer for weddings and other events and during the winter for snowshoeing and ice fishing enthusiasts.
“The Arb is kinda like a living memorial to Elliot, and we hope that we can maintain and expand the land here in his memory,” Van Zante said.