Iowa City Parks

Terry Trueblood Recreation Area

by Sarita Zaleha

These days every wild place has, to one degree or another, been cut into and cut off.”
– Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction.

Sand Lake

Listen to the Audio tour about Sand Lake.

The Terry Trueblood Recreation Area (TTRA) only recently became a city park. The park opened to the public in 2013. From the late 1970s to 2005 the area was a quarry for sand and gravel. Stevens Sand and Gravel began quarrying the area and S&G Materials took over in 1990. The sand and gravel extracted from this site was sold to developers who used it for local construction projects. The sand and gravel was used to mix concrete, some of the rock was sold as landscaping rock, and they also sold fill sand and black dirt. Look out across Sand Lake. Before this area was a quarry, it was farmland for alfalfa, soybeans, and corn. The quarrying process created Sand Lake. To extract the sand and gravel, the quarry workers would dig a hole, use a hydraulic dredge, and pump out the groundwater. This released a slurry of sand and gravel, which was taken to the factory for separation. The bottom of sand lake is blue clay. Once S&G Materials extracted all the sand and gravel at the site, and quarried down to the blue clay, they had reached their limit. The the city bought the land in 2006 to develop it as a public park.

[Quarry history from 12/9/15 phone conversation with Maury Sass, employee of S&G Materials for 30 years, now retired.]

Glacial History

Listen to the Audio tour about Glacial History.

The gravel quarried by S & G Materials was deposited during the last glaciation 14,000 years ago. The De Moines Lobe was an ice sheet that extended down into Iowa from Minnesota. During periods of glacier melting, there were floods of water. This outwash carried down the rivers the gravel the glacier was pushing as it slowly moved across the land. It is this 20’ of gravel that was deposited and quarried at the current site of Terry Trueblood Recreation Area. At that time, this area was likely a floodplain forest which included oak, walnut, and pecan trees. The glacier surges ceased 10,000 years ago at the beginning of the Holocene period, at which time more normal flooding occurred and around 15 feet of finer sediment was deposited. Silver maple and cottonwood can withstand growing in sediment, and can be found in this area.

[Phone conversation on 12/1/15 with Professor Lon Drake, geologist, University of Iowa].

Landforms_of_Iowa

Sand Road and Native American and Pioneer Settlements

Listen to the Audio tour about Sand Road.

Follow the TTRA trail to the east, where it runs south along Sand Road. Sand Road is a historic trading corridor.  In the 1830s, this area included residences that “formed the foundation for the earliest permanent settlements in the various portions of the state, as well as the earliest routes between settlements.”[1] In the 1830s, this area was a crossroads for the fur trade between Meskwaki and European Americans. Just south of this area there were two Meskwaki summer villages and the first European-American settlement of the Iowa City area. In Cynthia Peterson’s 1997 archaeological report on the area, Peterson notes “The placement of the Meskwaki villages, and the trading posts, and an Indian trail (which later became Sand Road) that predates 1833, were all factors in the eventual location of the capital of Iowa Territory at present-day Iowa City.”[2]

sand road corridor mapThe Terry Trueblood Recreation Area is located in Lucas Township, township 79N, range 6W, section 27. In the early and mid 1830s, when John Gilbert traded in this area and established his trading post for the American Fur Company, this area was considered “Indian Territory.”

His trading post was in the vicinity of two Meskwaki villages, that of Poweshiek and Wapashashiek. It wasn’t until 1837 that this land was formally ceded to the US Government, yet fur traders followed the retreat of the Sauk and Meskwaki after Black Hawk’s War and they established trading posts near Native American villages. “In Johnson County, Gilbert was ideally situated to exploit the three treaty cessions [First Black Hawk Purchase of of 1832, Keokuk’s Reserve in 1836, and the Second Black Hawk Purchase of 1837] that, between 1832 and 1837, forced the Sauk and Meskwaki to relocate every few years. Living within, or at the edge of, not-yet-ceded Indian land, Gilbert profited from trade with Native hunters and harvesters, while anticipating their imminent removal.”[3]

Image caption: Map of Johnson County in 1837 including treaty lines and cession dates. From Charles Ray Aurner, Leading Events in Johnson County, Iowa History, 1912. Green dot denotes current site of Terry Trueblood Recreation Area.

Image caption: Map of Johnson County in 1837 including treaty lines and cession dates. From Charles Ray Aurner, Leading Events in Johnson County, Iowa History, 1912. Green dot denotes current site of Terry Trueblood Recreation Area.

The 1839 General Land Office plat map of T79N, Range 6W, shows notations for Indian villages along the Iowa River. Further research on this site should include obtaining the field notes of John Frierson, land surveyor.

The 1839 General Land Office plat map of T79N, Range 6W, shows notations for Indian villages along the Iowa River. Further research on this site should include obtaining the field notes of John Frierson, land surveyor.

A diagram included in the 1883 History of Johnson County, Iowa shows the locations of Gilbert’s trading post relative to two Meskwaki villages, Wapashashiek and Poweshiek. In addition, the site of the town of Napoleon is labelled, located at present day Napoleon park, just north of TTRA. Given its proximity to Napoleon, this map suggests that the TTRA is located in the vicinity of the former site of the Wapashasheik village.

1883 diagram from History of Johnson County, Iowa

1883 diagram from History of Johnson County, Iowa

Wapashashiek’s village (GIS location: southwestern portion of TTRA)

Listen to the Audio tour about Wapashashiek.

“Efforts to preserve ‘nature’ in parks remain fatally troubled by the ineradicable mark of the founding expulsion of those who used to live there.” Donna J. Haraway “Otherworldy Conversations, Terran Topics, Local Terms”

While the location of Poweshiek’s village has been confirmed, Cynthia Peterson’s 1997 report for the Office of the State Archaeologist notes that Wapashashiek’s village has not been confirmed with archaeological evidence: “The correct location of Chief Wapashashiek’s Village has not been archaeologically defined, but is thought to be in the T79N-R6W, based upon the General Land Office survey field notes [by John Frierson in 1839], which give the location of the “remains of deserted Indian village” in chains along the meanders of the river in Section 27. The location of these remains appears on modern maps on the west side of the Iowa River. Wapashashiek’s Village is known to have been located on the east side of the river. However, in 1839, the Iowa River had a different course, placing the village on the west side of the river, as reported. Because the river changed course and moved directly across the Meskwaki village, all village remains have likely been destroyed. The site location has not been confirmed or invalidated archaeologically.”[4]

James McCollister farmed this land from the 1860s to early 1900s and in doing so supposedly “plowed up many bones of the buried Indians in cultivating the land on which the fort was located.”[5] If not on the site of TTRA, Wapashashiek’s village would have been near TTRA’s southern border.

1997 map for the Iowa City South Planning District. An X marks the position of the “suspected location of Wapashashiek’s village,” locating it at the Southwestern edge of Terry Trueblood Recreation Area.

1997 map for the Iowa City South Planning District. An X marks the position of the “suspected location of Wapashashiek’s village,” locating it at the Southwestern edge of Terry Trueblood Recreation Area.

In 1868 Samuel Trowbridge described Wapashashiek as “tall and thin; inclined to justice, honesty, and sobriety. He was a man of far less force of character than Poweshiek, by whom he was controlled; managed his own village very well, but all weighty or difficult matters were referred to the head chief.”[6]

 

In the 1830s and 1840s the Meskwaki experienced a period of “great political conflict, of economic innovation, of dispossession, and of cultural and social confusion.”[7] By the early 1830s, the Sauk and Meskwaki became indebted to fur traders, due to the overhunting of animals for the fur trade: “The land along the Iowa River was already depleted of animal resources. [The Sauk and Meskwaki] were under tremendous economic and ecological pressure…Scarce resources and crowded hunting grounds, poverty, and malnutrition were aggravated by chronic warfare, epidemic illness, and alcoholism, which increasingly took hold in the 1830s…As conditions worsened, the Sauk and Meskwaki went deeply into debt to the fur traders who supplied them with goods on credit, such as gunpowder, shot, salt, and fabrics, all of which had become necessities for hunting and village life.”[8]

 

Treaties signed 1836-1837 required the Wapashashiek and Poweshiek communities to leave Johnson County in 1839. These villages relocated north, with Wapashashiek’s community settling near present day North Amana, IA (ten miles north of Iowa City) in a village known as Wacoshashe (probable variation on Wapashashiek), named for their leader. The Meskwaki village of Wacoshashe settled here from 1839-1843. This area was excavated by archaeologists in 2015, and the artifacts uncovered are being studied.[9]

 

[Cynthia Peterson in email correspondence from 12/11/15 stated Wapashashiek’s village would have been south of the current TTRA site.]

The figure on the right is Wakusasse (alternate spelling of Wapashashiek), drawn by Karl Bodmer for Travels in the Interior of North America, 1832-1834.

The figure on the right is Wakusasse (alternate spelling of Wapashashiek), drawn by Karl Bodmer for Travels in the Interior of North America, 1832-1834.

Wacochachi Drawing, ca. 1830 Mesquakie, Paper, ink, sealing wax; Length: 9 3/4 in. (24.8 cm) Width: 15 1/2 in. (39.4 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, State Historical Museum of Iowa (SL.7.2015.20.1) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/641458

Wacochachi
Drawing, ca. 1830
Mesquakie,
Paper, ink, sealing wax; Length: 9 3/4 in. (24.8 cm) Width: 15 1/2 in. (39.4 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, State Historical Museum of Iowa (SL.7.2015.20.1)
http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/641458

Ink Drawings by Wacochachi (alternate spelling of Wapashashiek), ca. 1830. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s description of the work: “Nearly one hundred mammals, birds, and fish are depicted in this drawing. Although the figures are only silhouettes, many are easy to identify. Three war stories, a buffalo hunt, and two fishing scenes are combined to create a vivid sense of place and human drama. Scholars believe that Wacochachi, a principal leader of the Meskwaki Nation during the first half of the 1800s, made the work.”

McCollister Farm

Listen to the Audio tour about McCollister Farm.

The McCollister farmland includes the origin stories of what led to the settlement of Iowa City,. “The first settlement of a land claim in Johnson County was made in [Lucas] township by Philip Clark, on section 27, being the farm now owned by James McCollister.”[10] Philip Clark, a settler from Indiana came to Iowa in 1836 to stake claim on land. In addition, he collaborated with several others including John Gilbert to establish a town. This town, Napoleon, was located near present day Napoleon Park. It was built on Clark’s land, which he farmed. Clark’s land supposedly included settlements of “one thousand of the Musquaka or Fox Indians.”

McCollister purchased the land from Clark in 1863, and from 1863 to 1975 the land of TTRA was in the James McCollister family. James McCollister owned the land from 1864 to his death in 1927, at which point his daughter Mary Showers inherited the farm. Her son Charles Showers maintained a dairy and crop farm at this site until his death in 1973. The Nortons bought the farmhouse in 1973, and Robert Showers sold the land in December 1975 and January 1976 to the Stevens Development Company. It is at this time that the first large scale quarrying began.

Portrait of James McCollister, undated.

Portrait of James McCollister, undated.

McCollister’s property included the entire site of TTRA as well as Napoleon Park and the plot of land to its east. From the Leading Events in Johnson County, Iowa by Charles R. Aurner (1912-13), the McCollister farm is described as such: “The great farm of eight hundred acres has been improved until it is easily one of the finest estates in Iowa.  In addition to the family mansion, the farm contains several residences for the use of tenants and immense barns for housing stock and feed.  Water for all purposes is supplied by windmills.  a remarkable fact in connection with this farm is that there have been but two transfers made of it – one from the United States to Philip Clark and the second from Philip Clark to James McCollister, and there has never been a mortgage placed upon it.”

T79N, R6W, 1870 (Thompson and Everts, 1870)

T79N, R6W, 1870 (Thompson and Everts, 1870)

1917 map showing McCollister Farm in sections 27 and 22.

1917 map showing McCollister Farm in sections 27 and 22.

1930s aerial view of the McCollister farm.

1930s aerial view of the McCollister farm.

Other than farming, the McCollister-Showers farm served as a site for several community events. In 1904, the farm was the site of a dinner for children in need organized by the Salvation Army. The farm was also the site of a church group’s bob-sled party in 1912. In 1920, James McCollister allowed the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts 50 acres of land for camp and related activities. While it is unclear whether these Scouting activities took place on McCollister’s property on the east or west sides of the Iowa River, it would be in the vicinity of TTRA. The 1930s aerial map shows a wooded corridor between the eastern border of the Iowa River and McCollister-Showers’ cultivated land.

Iowa City Press Citizen, August 10, 1904

Iowa City Press Citizen, August 10, 1904

Iowa City Press Citizen, June 29, 1920

Iowa City Press Citizen, June 29, 1920

Iowa City Press Citizen, November 8, 1920.

Iowa City Press Citizen, November 8, 1920.

Iowa City Press Citizen, April 18, 1922.

Iowa City Press Citizen, April 18, 1922.

Mason City Globe Gazette, July 30, 1931

Mason City Globe Gazette, July 30, 1931

The Daily Iowan, January 11, 1947

The Daily Iowan, January 11, 1947

Terry Trueblood Recreation Area Park Development

Listen to the Audio tour about Sand Park’s development.

2003 aerial view, a few years before the city purchased the area to develop it into a public park.

2003 aerial view, a few years before the city purchased the area to develop it into a public park.

Before park Development. Photograph included in Snyder & Associates’ 2010 Master Plan.

Before park Development. Photograph included in Snyder & Associates’ 2010 Master Plan.

View of North Shore before the TTRA site was developed as a park.

View of North Shore before the TTRA site was developed as a park.

iowatoday

The more one knows of its peculiar history, the more one realizes that wilderness is not quite what it seems. Far from being the one place on earth that stands apart from humanity, it is quite profoundly a human creation…Wilderness hides its unnaturalness behind a mask that is all the more beguiling because it seems so natural.” William Cronon, “The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature”

The City began purchasing the land for TTRA in 2006. They purchased the bulk of the park area, which includes Sand Lake, for one million dollars from S&G Materials in 2006. The community widely supported the effort to develop this land into a park. Terry Trueblood was the director of the City’s Parks and Recreation Department at the time, and he was able to garner support for the park’s development and obtained successful funding for it. The park opened to the public in 2013 and continues to attract a diversity of visitors. The park features a lake, trail, and lodge. Park visitors are able to participate in water activities and can rent paddleboards, canoes, and pedal cruisers from Fin & Feather H2O on site. The park also has a lodge which is a popular rental site for weddings.

TTRA was designed by Snyder & Associates. Early concepts for the park sought a “conservation and natural area theme” or a “recreation development theme,” and Snyder & Associates included aspects of both of these for the final design of TTRA.

Plantings accommodate for three major plant environments: Sand Woodland, Sand Prairie, and Emergent Aquatics. The Sand Woodland species include a mix of evergreen (Eastern Red Cedar and Eastern White Pine), deciduous trees (Red Maple, Common Hackberry, Eastern Cottonwood, Pin Oak, and Basswood), understory trees (Shadblow Serviceberry, Pagoda Dogwood, and Washington Hawthorn), and shrubs (Amur Privet, Beach Plum, Smooth Sumac, and Japanese Rose). The species planted in the Sand Prairie (the area located between the trail and the water) include Little Bluestem, Dune Reed, Canada Wild Rye, Switch Grass, Heath Aster, Tall Coreopsis, Joe Pye Weed, Hairy Bush Clover, Wild Bergamot, Black Eyed Susan, Old Field Goldenrod, Missouri Iron Weed, and Oats. Emergent Aquatics grow at the area where the water meets the prairie and include Porcupine Sedge, Bottlebrush Sedge, Yellow Flag, Blue Flag, Lake Shore Rush, Common Rush, Arrow arum, Pickerel Weed, Common Arrowhead, and Three Square.

From Snyder & Associates’ 2010 Master Plan.

From Snyder & Associates’ 2010 Master Plan.

A two mile trail follows the perimeter of Sand Lake, the central water feature of TTRA. As you walk the trail, you trace the limits of the quarry. You stand in between extracted land and restored prairie and woodland. Your hike reinscribes the quarry, yet also reminds you of the significance of obtaining a balance between human and nonhuman presence in the environment.

BIRDWATCHING

Listen to the Audio tour about Birdwatching.

TTRA is a popular spot for local birders. It offers a range of habitats, so many different bird species are attracted to the area. Bird habitats developed here as Sand Lake was formed due to sand and gravel extraction. When this area was a farm for over one hundred years, it was not a destination for birds or birdwatchers. Maury Sass, who worked for S&G Materials, remembers seeing the first pair of Canadian geese on the shores of Sand Lake. He said that by the time he retired, hundreds of geese were visiting Sand Lake every year.

The following comments on birdwatching at TTRA were given by local bird watcher, Mark Brown:

“In this five year period [from 2010-2015], Terry Trueblood has accumulated a species list of 194, which is second only after Hawkeye Wildlife Area in Johnson county. I have seen 179 species there personally.  The reason for the high diversity is that this habitat has potential to attract different groups of birds depending on the season. Waterfowl are present in high numbers in spring and fall. Shorebirds have been good during some spring seasons, but only if water levels are lower to provide some mudflats (2014 was spectacular for them). The woodland habitat along the south and west portions are great for breeding songbirds in the summer, and for migrant songbirds in spring and fall. The brushy habitat around portions of the lake provide good cover for sparrows and other skulkers during early spring and fall.

Bald Eagles and Ospreys are both frequently seen fishing and have had successful nests nearby along the Iowa River. Ospreys are present from April through October, but the eagles are present year round. The introduced Eurasian Tree Sparrow nests near the river along the western portion in dead trees, making this location one of the most reliable places to see them…Some of the more uncommon birds seen since Trueblood became a public area are Least Tern, Long-tailed Duck, Hudsonian Godwit, Black-necked Stilt, Red-necked Phalarope, Piping Plover, Blue Grosbeak, and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, and Nelson’s Sparrow.”

[phone conversation with Maury Sass, employee of S&G Materials for 30 years, now retired, 12/9/15]

[email correspondence with Mark Brown, 12/13/15]

 

[1] Elizabeth R.P Henning, Implementation of the Resource Protection Planning Process in Iowa. 1982. Iowa State Historical Department, Division of Historic Preservation, Des Moines, Iowa, 67.

[2] Cynthia Peterson, “Historic Context: The Late Fur Trade Era/Early Settlement, 1835-1840,” in Sand Road Heritage Corridor Johnson County, Iowa: Archaeology and History of Indian and Pioneer Settlement, Office of the State Archaeologist, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, 1997, 19.

[3] Laura Rigal, “Watershed Days on the Treaty Line, 1836-1839,” The Iowa Review, 39.2 (2009): 206.

[4] Cynthia Peterson, Sand Road Heritage Corridor Johnson County, Iowa: Archaeology and History of Indian and Pioneer Settlement, Office of the State Archaeologist, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, 1997, 111. This report has been redacted from the original, so the majority of the maps helpful to locating Wapashashiek’s village are unavailable.

[5] Old Settlers Association Yearbooks, 1866-1925, Johnson County, Iowa, 1977, Johnson County Historical Society, qtd. in Cynthia Peterson, Sand Road Heritage Corridor Johnson County, Iowa: Archaeology and History of Indian and Pioneer Settlement, Office of the State Archaeologist, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, 1997, 111.

[6] S.W. Huff, editor, “Poweshiek, Wapashashiek, and Kiskekosh: A Chat with Colonel Trowbridge, Annals of Iowa, 1868, 6(1): 64-67.

[7] Michael D. Green, We Dance in Opposite Directions: Mesquakie (Fox) Separatism From the Sac and Fox Tribe Ethnohistory, 1983, 30(3):138.

[8] Laura Rigal, “Watershed Days on the Treaty Line, 1836-1839,” The Iowa Review, 39.2 (2009): 206.

[9] Kyle Munson, “Munson: Meskwaki village excavation unearths Iowa’s big cultural shift,” Des Moines Register, April 7, 2015. <link>

[10] History of Johnson County, Iowa, Containing a History of the County, and Its Townships, Cities, and Villages from 1836 to 1882, No publisher listed, Iowa City, 1883, 729.

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