Amazing Space Project Update: Walls are Up! And Establishing Prairie Plantings…

October 30th, 2015 by

Progress on our Amazing Space is moving quickly – and it’s more clearly visible from Otis Road now that the walls are going up! Additionally, the geothermal field is being installed, the septic system is being installed, and three of the bioswales are finished.

Finishing the bioswales early allows us to seed native plants this fall under oat cover crop and mulch. This dormant seeding provides the seeds a natural cold, wet stratification and ensures good soil contact.  They should germinate in the spring.  We started with native seeds we’ve collected this fall that will provide good diversity.

Collecting prairie seed onsite

Collecting prairie seed this fall


Wild Rose

Because these are bioswales, they are designed to move large quantities of water through them – but the water won’t be standing and puddling. The species we plant need to be able to withstand drought far more than they need to be able to withstand flooding. For this first round of planting, we used: common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), white wild indigo (Baptisia alba), river oats (Chasmanthium latifolium), rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium), cream gentian (Gentiana flavida), sweet pearly everlasting (Pseudognaphalium obtrusifolium), grey coneflower (Ratibida pinnata), wild rose (Rosa arkansana), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), late horse gentian (Triosteum perfoliatum), culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum), purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea), and narrow-leaved coneflower (Echinacea augustifolia). Stay tuned for additional species as fall harvesting continues. For species that we don’t have a lot of already on-site, such as white prairie clover (Dalea candida) and rough blazing star (Liatris aspera), we will purchase. After the cover crop and mulch is in place this fall, we will be planting a variety of established plants, such as butterfly milkweed, purchased via a Rockwell Green Communities grant, in the bioswales.

Spotted horsemint

Spotted horsemint

Species that are aggressive and tend to dominate native plantings, such as mint, will be planted in subsequent years, after these flowers have a chance to become established.


Project Update: “A Good Foundation”

October 9th, 2015 by


A significant part of what goes into a sustainable building will never be seen once complete. Many use the “good foundation” analogy for everything from business practices to personal relationships. In terms of physical structures, a good foundation starts with a trench (above).


Ultimately, the building will stand on this spread footing (above). Ryan Construction reuses the wood for the footing on multiple projects, until it eventually disintegrates. All wood from this project that is damaged or cannot be reused will be recycled. As it is not green treated (treated with chemicals), it can be ground and used for mulch in a variety of applications.


Throughout construction, independent inspectors will be verifying and testing everything. At this stage of the project, those inspections are verifying that the concrete is structurally sound and that the rebar is placed correctly.


The foundation wall forms, laid out here and ready to be placed, are also reused on multiple projects. The little orange toppers on the rebar protect workers from hurting themselves on the spikes.


The pump truck, in the background, allows the concrete to efficiently be poured into the relatively narrow wall form, and minimizes spillage and waste.

Lindsey and Andrea on the wall

The foundation wall is done!

(This, and all Project Update posts, written by staff member and Amazing Space project manager Jean Wiedenheft)

Project Update: Handling Rainwater Run-off

September 25th, 2015 by

Infrastructure in general, and parking lots in particular, are notorious for causing water problems. During a rain storm, a variety of factors combine to devastate local water ways.

The rainwater picks up contaminants, such as spilled oil and gasoline, and carries them into the environment, such as neighboring vegetation or rivers.

Most commonly, rainwater is channeled off of surfaces through piping. Fast moving, this creates focused torrents of water that erode the surrounding soil, carrying silt into the rivers and creeks. Cloudy water makes it impossible for some fish and other wildlife to live.

The Nature Center is taking a number of steps to decrease these problems on its new site. The goal is to keep 100 percent of runoff on our own property — even during construction. Areas were excavated to temporarily hold any rainwater during the project. We had five inches of rain last week, and the dirty water stayed where it belonged (see below).


For the parking lot, the “net zero water” started with an underground design. The parking stalls were carefully excavated lower than the driveway.  In between small parking areas, vegetation will provide green buffers for visitors.


Underground, each “mini parking lot” serves as a pond. Water that falls on the driveway, and on the parking lot itself will stay in these ponds. Contaminants – whether its leaking oil or dirt from a tire – will settle out in the pond. The entire lot will be filled with large, clean rock, allowing significant amounts of rainwater to fill the space. On top of the rock, the driveway will be concrete and the parking spaces will be permeable pavers that allow the water to drain off in between them.


Ultimately, any extra water will make its way into a series of wetlands, where it can infiltrate back into the soil as clean, cool water.

Project Update: Maintaining Healthy Soil

September 18th, 2015 by

Soil provides a foundation for all other life. It determines which wild plants flourish, which animals survive, and which crops grow. That doesn’t change on a construction site. How the soils are treated before, during, and after construction have repercussions long after the backhoes pull out. For the Amazing Space project, we implemented a variety of strategies to maintain healthy soils.

construction fence protecting trees

Construction fence: The construction fence (pictured above) keeps machinery within the project of the boundary. Heavy equipment, dumpsters and stockpiles of rock and supplies destroy the existing vegetation and compact the soil. Keeping that impact confined to a small area protects the surrounding forest and prairie.


Topsoil: The topsoil, full of rich organic material, was scraped off the entire area within the boundary and stockpiled. The topsoil pile was immediately planted with a cover crop, to protect it from erosion. As work finishes in different areas within the project boundary, those areas will also be planted with a cover crop. At the end of construction, this soil will be re-spread 6 inches thick over the project area, creating a place for new plants to root in healthy soil.


Silt fence: To prevent heavy rains from washing silt and sediment out of the project site and into the neighboring prairies, ditches, and creeks, erosion socks and silt fences were established. They are monitored weekly and after rains for any problems that may occur.

These basic steps will ensure the area around the project remain healthy, and that the soils on the site after the project will support everything from the edible forest to the pollinator garden.

Non-resident deer tag auction set for August 10-13, 2015

July 22nd, 2015 by

White-tailed_deerIf you live outside of Iowa, this is your chance to hunt Iowa Whitetail deer!

Indian Creek Nature Center and the Iowa DNR are again teaming up to offer a 2015-2016 Iowa Non-Resident Deer Tag to the highest bidder. The winner, who must live outside of Iowa, receives a tag that allows them to harvest one any-sex deer and one antlerless deer. The auction will take place on E-Bay from Monday, August 10 through Friday, August 14, 2015. The listing will be under sporting goods/hunting/hunting trips & leases on (<–This link will take you directly to the hunting trips and leases category.)

This auction is a fundraiser with proceeds divided between Indian Creek Nature Center and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to help fund conservation and sustainability projects. This a fantastic opportunity because the Iowa DNR limits the number of non-resident hunting permits offered annually, and those permits are awarded by lottery drawing. Competition is stiff. Iowa is home to several record-setting racks and the state presents abundant opportunity for hunters to score a “big one.”

More details:
This non-resident deer tag is valid statewide; however, landowner permission is required before hunting on private land. Hunting is not allowed on Indian Creek Nature Center property. The tag may be used either in the 2015 Season or 2016 Season. To participate in the auction, you must live outside of Iowa and bid through Indian Creek Nature Center prefers that the winner pay with check, to avoid Paypal fees. The Nature Center will contact the winner for payment at the conclusion of the auction.