Looking out for Okoboji
By Katy Heggen on January 17, 2018 in Landowner Stories
Standing on the shore of West Lake Okoboji looking out over the water, you can still imagine it: the lake as it would have been in 1944. You can practically see the water stretching out before you, vast and uninterrupted but for a few small boats. The shoreline dotted with a sparse collection of cottages. Pastures and fields spanning wide gaps between the trees.
This is how Ann Anderson remembers those early days at Green Pastures, 163 acres of native prairie, restored wetlands and grasslands just beyond the trees near Haywards Bay. Of course, much has changed since that time. But for Ann and countless other Iowans, the pull of the place remains the same.
“People need a place to go where they feel restored,” said Ann. “For me, that place is Green Pastures."
A place on the lake
Green Pastures is located within Okoboji city limits, a mere 250 feet from West Lake Okoboji, one of Iowa’s most popular vacation destinations. Given its prime location, the property offers substantial — and extraordinarily valuable — natural space in an otherwise highly developed area. This was not lost on Ann and Sig, who inherited the property from Ann's parents.
The Andersons wanted the wildlife habitat and scenic nature of Green Pastures protected from mounting development pressure in the area. In 2016, the couple donated the property to INHF to be owned and managed forever. They also placed a conservation easement on the land, now held by the Iowa DNR. This double layer of protection provides Ann the confidence that Green Pastures will be wild forever.
“We don’t know what the future holds. This gives me peace of mind that the land will always be protected,” Ann said.
Under INHF’s permanent care, staff will continue to steward the land, building and expanding upon what Ann, Sig and Ann's parents had already restored. The property is well suited for habitat restoration, and will be open to the public from time to time for education and outreach events, through which Ann hopes to inspire an awe and appreciation for Iowa’s wild places.
“You stand on that ridge looking out over the land and it’s compelling. You can see so far. It's really quite a sensation."