Ledges State Park staff look forward to annual meeting, New Year's Day hike

Sara Jordan-Heintz
For the Tribune

It’s been a busy year at Ledges State Park, and 2022 kicks off with a bang with the annual First Day Hike.

But before the new year gets here, Iowans are first invited to learn more about the park at park staff's annual public meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday in the auditorium of Boone City Hall, 923 8th St.

Now in its sixth year, last year’s annual meeting was held virtually.

“It’s a great way for us to be able to have a platform to have the community come in and see and hear what we do on an annual basis,” said Park Manager Andy Bartlett. “It’s also great for us as a tool to recruit new members to our Friends group and give people an avenue to come in and be able to connect to us, as staff — see what we do, behind-the-scenes operations and become more involved, hopefully.”

Photos of the park will be on display and the meeting will provide attendees with the opportunity to learn more about the park’s various projects. Doors will open at 6 p.m. and the presentation, led by Bartlett and Park Ranger Klint Peterson, will begin at 6:30 p.m. Immediately following, staff will take questions and hear suggestions for improvements and events.

“The park is here for the people, so if they have ideas or are frequent visitors and see things they think would be beneficial, we welcome those ideas,” Bartlett added.

While the event is intended to be a year in review, attendees will also learn more about what’s in store for the park in 2022 and beyond.

“We’re already looking to 2024, which will be the (park's) 100th anniversary,” Bartlett said. “Ledges has this really cool, unique ‘brand’ — everbody loves it, and it’s such a wildly popular park. We just want to continue that standard of service.”

Ledges' First Day Hike will begin at 4 p.m. on Jan. 1. Participants will meet at the Oak Woods Shelter. Guided by Bartlett, the hike will wind its way down in the canyon.

“It should be a beautiful time of day for the hike as the sun sets beyond the Des Moines River Valley,” he said. “The hike will only be about one and a half miles and follow the roadway itself down and back up. You are welcome to explore the park further at your own leisure.”

Participants will also be able to enjoy bird-watching of the area's resident winter birds, which include blue jays, cardinals, nuthatches, chickadees, woodpeckers and more, without foliage on the trees obstructing the view. Cross-country skiing on parts of the trail system, as well as hiking and snowshoeing, are also popular cold-weather activities.

The hike will be held in conjunction with similar ones across Iowa as part of the second annual First Day Hike challenge through the Iowa State Park Passport. More than 50 state parks are participating in the challenge, which runs from Dec. 31, 2021, to Jan. 2, 2022. Every check-in qualifies a participant for a prize drawing of a free two-night stay at a two-bedroom cabin at Lake Darling State Park. Learn more on the Iowa DNR's website.

Ledges State Park is located at 1515 P Ave., in Madrid.