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Friends of Ada Hayden Heritage Park and the City of Ames


Nov. 3rd, 2021

An Iowa State professor could be the main reason that Ada Hayden Heritage Park exists and still thrives to this day.


Erwin Klaas, professor emeritus of animal ecology at Iowa State, has always had a passion for animals and their ecosystem. When a colleague of his came to him concerned about a possible housing development project ruining the water quality of an important lake, he decided to take action that would later become a legacy.


According to public records from Ames’ city website and the Ames Vault Archive, land records for the current park date back to 1850 when the U.S. government gifted 320 acres of swampland to the state, which later became the county’s. The largest of five parcels of the land was owned by Hallet’s Construction Company, which operated as a material quarry on the land from 1958 until the early 1990s.


In 1999, an outside developer wanted to build a multitude of homes on this land — this is where Klaas steps in.


Klaas and other fellow advocates for the park fought the city to stop the development plan. Through his work, 86% of Ames voters supported a bond issue in 2001 that let the city take ownership of the land where the quarry resided and its surroundings. Ada Hayden Heritage Park was preserved and was opened to the public in 2004.


The advocacy for the group continues to this day. Klaas founded a friends group to help manage the park. The Friends of Ada Hayden Heritage Park is a 501(c)(3) organization, meaning that it is exempt from federal taxes and is a nonprofit organization. The group receives significant donations, owns a Facebook page, makes recommendations to the city and writes about the park in a blog called “Reflections.”


“The friends group is very much involved with the park and its existence,” Klaas said.  “We have a board of directors of nine people that helps decide what we do with our funds,”


Kevin Kane, the associate dean for research and outreach of Iowa State’s College of Design, is also an active advocate for the park. He founded the blog “Reflections” in 2012 as well as the friends group Facebook page. Kane notes the change that the group has made in the park because of their relationship with the city of Ames.


“We are taken very seriously as a group of passionate scientists, naturalists and community activists by the city, and they have invited us at every turn to give advice in their projects. We have a representative of the city at each of our quarterly board meetings.  It is a very healthy relationship and the blog and Facebook page serve as a source of communication between all of us and the citizens of Ames.”


Joshua Thompson, Ames’ superintendent of parks and facilities, said that the Friends of Ada Hayden Heritage Park group is a great resource for the city regarding the park.


“We use them as a resource as far as how the park is managed, activities that could take place and its development,” Thompson said. “They have developed a management plan for us in regard to maintaining the natural features of the park, like controlling invasive species.”


Ada Hayden is a park on the north side of Ames that includes hiking trails, a lake, boat access, fishing locations and a wide wildlife ecosystem.  

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