THURMAN, Iowa — William and Sara Blackburn have donated 151 acres in northwest Fremont County to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
It will be used to create the Blackburn Wildlife Management Area and Blackburn Unit of Waubonsie State Park. The donation from the Long Grove, Illinois, couple is valued at more than $515,000.
William Blackburn traces his family history to southwest Iowa and was looking to buy property in the area when this parcel became available. After the acquisition in 2003, he began working to turn his vision for the property into reality.
The family began hauling away junk and old machinery, and removed about 200 cedar trees and acres of tree of heaven and honeysuckle that were invading the native timber.
They researched what prairie plants would likely have been in the area during settlement and searched for those seeds to include as part of the mix used for a 35-acre prairie restoration.
They improved the oak timber, installed roads, trails and erosion control and developed an open-air picnic shelter and performance pavilion, with an adjoining boardwalk leading to a viewing platform. The family’s investment totaled more than $300,000.
In more recent years, the Blackburn property has become a popular nature preserve for the family and community and a site for weddings, graduation parties and a biennial music festival.
It was Blackburn’s wish that everyone could enjoy this property that has meant so much to generations of his family.
“I want them to say, ‘Wow! I had no idea this natural beauty was right here in my backyard! We have to come back!’ I want folks to realize this is something rare enough, enchanting enough to take care of, not just for their own use, but for their children, their children’s children, and all who come after them,” he said.
The 72-acre parcel containing the shelter-pavilion, stone viewing benches and other facilities — roughly the southwest half of the donated grounds — will become the Blackburn Unit of Waubonsie State Park.
“It’s a natural gem that’s been well managed,” said Matt Moles, park manager at Waubonsie State Park, who will manage the park portion of the donation. “It’s definitely a place that people will enjoy.”
Moles said the plan is to continue to maintain the high-quality natural landscape, hiking trails and open-air shelter. A local fundraising effort and assistance from the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation allowed the park to receive a new pit latrine prior to ownership being transferred. The area does not currently have water or campsites.
The 79-acre undeveloped parcel to the northeast will become the Blackburn Wildlife Management Area and be managed by the Nishnabotna Wildlife Unit.
“This is a really nice piece of Loess Hills timber with high quality prairie reconstruction on the edges,” said Matt Dollison, wildlife biologist with the Iowa DNR who will be managing the new wildlife area.
The location is important as the Blackburn parcel links a newly acquired 200-acre Wiedel tract to its north and west with the 350-acre Green Hollow Wildlife Area. This resulting 700-acre wildlife area and park will abound with turkey, deer and a wide variety of birds, along with other wildlife.
More than a dozen threatened or endangered species have been documented on the two areas. “That’s a big deal,” Moles said. “This is some of the best, most-cared-for prairie that I’ve ever seen.’’
The INHF played an important role in helping this donation happen.
“For years we’ve helped Bill explore ways that this special place could be permanently protected, so it is exciting to see this happen,” said INHF Vice President Anita O’Gara.
Couples and families can take advantage of several special Valentine’s Day offers, including reduced lodging, at Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area and Eugene T. Mahoney, Ponca and Platte River State Parks.
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Name: Cade Atkinson, Gothenburg, Nebraska
Species: Mule deer Where: Southwest of Gothenburg
Size: 5x5 Noteworthy: It was the 11-year-old’s second deer, which he took with the help of his dad, Brent Atkinson. Cade was able to take the buck down with one shot at 130 yards.
Name: Chris Taylor, Fremont. Species: Largemouth bass. Where: Private lake in Fremont. Size: 21 inches. Noteworthy: The 10-year-old caught the Master Angler fish using purple spinner bait.
Name: Tom Boyer, Omaha, with grandfather Jeff Carney Species: Blue catfish Where: Sandpit Lake near Ashland, Nebraska Size: 45 inches Noteworthy: This isn’t the first big catfish Tom has caught, but he earned his first Master Angler certificate. In the past, the 7-year-old wasn’t able to reel the fish all the way in on his own. This time he did, although he did take three rest breaks.
Name: Dylan Clark, Omaha. Species: Spoonbill. Where: Lake of the Ozarks with grandpa Butch Clark and friend Brian Hinenan. Size: 52 pounds. Noteworthy: This was Dylan’s biggest catch ever.
Name: Bob Story, at left, Central City Species: Channel catfish Where: Loup Canal in Platte County Size: 26.5 pounds Noteworthy: The 75-year-old landed the fish with some help from friends. Despite a severe fish kill a few years ago and March flood damage in the upper canal in March, the fishing in the lower half has been good this summer.
Name: Maezlyn Witherbee-Alef, Bennington Species: White crappie Where: Lake near Plattsmouth Size: ¾ of a pound Noteworthy: It was the 4-year-old’s first crappie. She is pictured with her grandfather, Mark Witherbee.
Name: Nate Ruffino. Species: Muskie. Where: Eagle Lake Sportsmen’s Lodge in Ontario, Canada. Size: 40 pounds, 50 inches. Noteworthy: Ruffino was casting on the dock when a 25-inch northen pike hit his bait. While reaching for his net the muskie came out and grabbed the pike. It took three people to net the fish and hoist him into the boat. Nate was fishing with his father, Tom Ruffino, and friends Frank and Andy Tworek, Ron Schmidt and Frank Mason.
Name: Hunter Redfern, Elkhorn.
Where: Stanton, Nebraska.
Noteworthy: The 9-year-old was hunting with his dad, John, at his Gram’s farm when he shot this cottontail rabbit. It was Hunter’s first animal harvested with a .22 rifle.
Name: Claudia Riggert, Pierce, Nebraska.
Where: Pierce County. Size: 4x4.
Noteworthy: The 11-year-old killed her first deer from 217 yards with her .243.
Name: L.D. “Spike” Gross, Fremont.
Species: King salmon.
Where: Lake Michigan out of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.
Size: 28½ pounds.
Noteworthy: The fish was caught on flash bait from the deck of the Top Banana, a charter boat. The captain was Patrick Vesser.
Name: Jay Wiederholt, with children Mara and Max.
Species: Largemouth bass.
Where: Neighborhood pond in Sedalia, Missouri.
Noteworthy: Jay is a dedicated golfer. His brother-in-law, Bob, offered to take him fishing via golf cart. Several bass were caught and released.
Name: Bill Henk, Omaha
Species: White-tailed deer
Where: North of Loup River in Howard County
Size: 11x8 points. Brow tines 9 inches
Noteworthy: Henk said this is his biggest trophy. It appeared out of a tree-lined draw just 15 minutes after he got in his stand at 2 p.m. He shot it from 150 yards.
Name: John Beeson, Omaha Species: Deer Where: Otoe County southwest of Palmyra Size: 4x4 Noteworthy: The UNK senior killed the deer with one shot from 80 yards with a Savage .270 rifle. It’s the third deer of his hunting career.
Name: Dean Cowles
Species: Tiger trout
Where: Two Rivers
Noteworthy: The 93-year-old has caught virtually all varieties of trout over the years but never the hybrid tiger trout. It was a goal of his before he quit fishing. He caught two that day.
Name: Derek Rutherford, Omaha.
Where: Private lake near Valley.
Size: 16 inches.
Noteworthy: After several nibbles and lots of patience, Derek landed the biggest fish he’s ever caught. It was released.
Name: Emmett Golda, La Vista
Species: Bass Size: 3 pounds
Where: Halleck Lake in Papillion
Noteworthy: Moments after dropping his line in the water, the 3-year-old needed a little assistance from grandpa Keith Bonner to reel in this fish caught with a bait worm. It was his first time fishing. His parents are Luke and Kay Golda.
Name: Klaus Brotzki, Omaha.
Species: Largemouth bass
Where: Private lake in north central Missouri.
Size: 6 pounds, 9 ounces
Noteworthy: It was caught in 12 feet of water using a chartreuse and white chatterbait. It was weighed and released.
Name: Grant Ryan, 10
Species: Blue Catfish
Where: Saunders County sandpit lake
Size: 44 inches long
Noteworthy: The fish qualifies for Nebraska Game and Parks' Master Angler recognition. This is the second big catfish Grant has caught with his grandfather, Jeff Carney. Once the fish was released, he turned to his dad, Ben, and said: "This never gets old!"
Name: Samuel Baumert
Species: 15½-inch crappie
Location: Near Schuyler.
Note: The 6-year-old caught the Master Angler fish on an outing with his family. He used a minnow as bait.
Name: Bridget White, Springfield, Nebraska
Where: Off the coast of Cancun in the Caribbean
Size: 6 pounds
Noteworthy: Bridget and Phil White caught six trigger fish and one white and one red snapper while out on a fishing charter.
Name: Ben Zupan, Elkhorn
Species: Bluegill and crappie
Where: Lake Wanahoo
Size: Around 10 inches
Ben Zupan also was on his first ice fishing outing, a Nebraska Game and Parks Commission event at Lake Wanahoo. Game and Parks provided gear and bait and even drilled the holes. The 16-year-old caught 15 fish, and grandpa Patrick McPherson caught four.
“Over the last 12 years I’ve enjoyed teaching him how to fish,’’ McPherson said. “He’s become an extremely good fisherman who loves the outdoors and can’t wait to go fishing. And, he’s a better and smarter fisherman than his grandpa. Don’t tell him that.”
Name: Jamison Childers, Omaha
What: Largemouth bass
Where: Douglas County private pond
Size: 17 inches
It was priceless, Paul Childers said, to see the smile on grandson Jamison’s face when he pulled in his prize on the youngster’s first ice fishing trip.
“Seeing him sitting in his chair and all of a sudden hearing, ‘Papa, I got one.’ All I did was put a few fingers underneath the pole and he reeled them in,’’ Childers said.
The 6-year-old caught a 17-inch and a 19-inch bass on a private pond in Douglas County. Childers caught a 21-incher.
Name: Jace Sheppard
This past July, the 8-year-old caught a pike at Lake of the Woods in Canada.
Name: Becky Connolly with guide Dean Roy, who is holding the fish. Husband Dan is to the left.
Where: Lake of the Woods
Size: 47-¼ inches, about 37 pounds
Noteworthy: The fish was caught on a jig and nightcrawler while fishing for walleye with a 6-pound line and a light-action rod. It was released unharmed.
Name: Don Paltani and grandson Wyatt, Bellevue
Species: Whitetail buck
Where: Cass County
Noteworthy: Paltani said it was a proud moment. Wyatt helped out with everything in taking care of the deer. “It is a moment to not be forgotten,” Paltani said. “We look forward to more proud moments like this one when Wyatt comes of age to hunt.”
Name: Clay Gathye, Gretna, and grandpa Larry Gathye, Omaha
Species: Mule deer
Where: Pine Ridge in western Nebraska
Noteworthy: The 10-year-old shot his first deer on opening day using his grandpa’s .308 rifle.
Name: Charlie Loofe, Elkhorn
Where: Buckskin Lake near Newcastle, Nebraska
Size: 20 inches
Noteworthy: The 10-year old was fishing with grandfather Mike Loofe of Wakefield.
Name: Michael Marcuzzo, Omaha
Species: Flathead catfish
Where: Omaha park
Size: 25 pounds, 39 inches
Noteworthy: Marcuzzo was fishing with a friend at a local park when he caught this master angler with a bluegill. The fish was released.
Name: Truman Stickland, Red Oak, Iowa
Where: Viking Lake in southwest Iowa
Size: 10 inches
Noteworthy: Truman and brother Bennett caught some small fish, then Truman reeled in this one. Mom wasn’t impressed, but Truman insisted he take it home. They then checked with Todd Carrick of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, who said it was a master angler catch.
Name: Jeff Schindler, Valley
Where: Homer, Alaska
Size: 45 pounds
Noteworthy: Jeff was fishing with dad Ron and brothers Brad and Rod. As he was reeling in a rock fish, this monster latched on. The quick-thinking captain gaffed it before it let go. Both fish were landed in the boat.
Name: Jack Taylor, Bellevue
Species: Largemouth bass
Where: Private pond in Sarpy County
Size: More than 3 pounds
Noteworthy: He was fishing with his father, Aaron Taylor, and Jerry Lovell.
Name: Doug Mellema, Kansas City, Missouri
Species: Largemouth bass
Where: Smithville Lake, Missouri
Size: 5 pounds
Noteworthy: The fish was caught on the second cast of the morning, using a Rapala Fat Rap, firetiger color. It was netted by Doug’s father, Warren Mellema of Omaha.
Name: Dean Cowles, Plattsmouth
Where: Two Rivers
Size: 14 pounds
Noteworthy: Dean, 92, was fishing for trout when he caught this koi.
Name: Davis Koile, Valley
Size: 21 inches
Noteworthy: The 7-year-old used a green pumpkin worm with a chartreuse tip rigged wacky style on a drop shot rig. The fish, which weighed 4 pounds, 3 ounces, was his first master angler bass. This catch made him “want to get even bigger ones.”
Name: Andrue Hackendahl, Elkhorn
Species: Redear sunfish
Where: Lawrence Youngman Lake
Size: Just over 10 inches
Noteworthy: The 9-year-old thought another little fish was stealing his night crawler. It was released.
Name: Ainsley Anderson, Omaha
Where: Lake Pokegama in Minnesota
Size: 29 inches
Noteworthy: The 11-year-old used a Silver Wally Diver to catch the 9-pound fish, which was her second master angler walleye.
Name: Hayden Anibal, Bennington
Where: Sandpit lake near Schuyler
Size: 16 inches
Noteworthy: The 11-year-old used a night crawler to nab her master angler fish.
Name: Emma Anibal, Bennington
Species: Largemouth bass
Where: Sandpit lake near Schuyler
Size: 18 1⁄2 inches
Noteworthy: The 12-year-old used a night crawler to catch the bass.
Name: Carter Cushing, Gretna
Species: Channel catfish
Where: Platte River
Size: 20 pounds
Noteworthy: The 14-year-old was fishing with his family, including sister Avery. The catfish put up a good fight and was released.
Name: Erik Hultquist, Omaha
Species: Brown trout
Where: Fraser River, Tabernash, Colorado
Size: 22 inches
Noteworthy: The 14-year-old was fly-fishing for the first time on a river.
Name: Gary Jacobsen, Omaha
Species: King salmon
Where: Kenai River in Alaska
Size: 50 pounds
Noteworthy: He was fishing with son Chris of Tekamah, Rick Beane of Minnesota and Dan and Eric Jensen of Kenai.
Name: Frankie Jordan, Omaha
Species: Largemouth bass
Where: East Silent Lake, Minnesota
Size: 4 1⁄2 pounds, 19 inches
Name: Mitch Stanley, Elkhorn
Species: Smallmouth bass
Where: Boy Lake, Longville, Minnesota
Size: 5-1⁄4 pounds, 21-1⁄2 inches long
Noteworthy: Mitch was fishing with his grandfather, Gary Lortz. He caught the master angler fish with a leech. The fish was released.
Name: John Swinarski, Omaha Species: Whitetail deer Where: Sarpy County Size: 7-pointer Noteworthy: Swinarski wants to thank the farmers and landowners who allow hunters on their land. “Really appreciate it,’’ he said. “We are always looking for more hunting land.’’
Names: Cooper and R.J. Hladik, Sedalia, Missouri
Species: Largemouth bass Where: neighborhood pond in Sedalia
Noteworthy: The boys also caught dozens of scrappy bluegills that were about 10 inches. They used hot dog bites and worms to catch green sunfish, too. All were released.
Couy, Reece and Nick French with a 113 1/4 pound blue catfish. It was 5-foot-1 inches tall with a girth of 3 feet 11 inches.
Name: Doug Finnicum, Omaha Species: Largemouth bass
Where: Douglas County private lake Size: 4 to 6 pounds
Noteworthy: It was his largest bass from this lake.
Name: John Schulte, Omaha Species: Pheasant Where: Public land near Columbus Noteworthy: The 13-year-old used his 20 gauge shotgun to kill his first rooster during the youth pheasant opener. He was hunting with springers Ruby, who flushed the wild rooster out of a plum thicket, and Camo, who retrieved it.
Drake Clements got a 16-point buck on the first day of the firearm deer season. It was the 11-year-old’s first buck.
Name: Kevin Marr, Omaha Species: Wiper Where: Lake Manawa
Size: About 8 pounds, 3⁄4 inches Noteworthy: Marr fishes at the lake every Monday. This time it was cold and windy, but he persevered on the fourth cast. It took about 17 minutes to bring the fish in.
Name: Michael Bebout Species:Whitetail deer Where: Johnson County by Sterling on his grandmother’s land. Size: 5x5 Noteworthy:Michael shot this 3 1/2 year old deer at 160 yards with a Browning .270. It is his biggest buck so far. This buck was so well hidden in the timber that, after shot, they walked within 2 foot of the deer and couldn’t see him. Michael found him.