Parks & Trails

Buchanan County Conservation Board

Natural Spaces Create Vibrant Places

Fontana Park is 134 acres nestled near the city of Hazleton in Buchanan County. According to Dan Cohen, executive director of the Buchanan County Conservation Board, Fontana Park consists of campgrounds, a lake reservoir, trails, and more, and is the star of the parks system with tens of thousands of visitors each year. It is also the hub of the county’s environmental education program, which includes the Fontana Interpretive Nature Center and the highlight for many visitors—the bison. 

Through the generosity of donors, the Buchanan County Conservation Board has expanded the park with the purchase of 16 acres of land. This area will become the new bison and prairie learning center. Here, children and adults will engage with educational programming about Iowa landscapes, the prairie, and the historic bison herds that once roamed the area.  

The Conservation Board received a $20,000 grant from the Buchanan County Community Foundation, an affiliate of the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa, for the project’s first phase. Dan sees the project as a fulfillment of the Conservation Board’s mission to improve quality of life, as an economic investment in the county, and he hopes it will be a spark for visitors to explore more wild places.

“Our mission statement is to improve quality of life through programs of education and conservation. Fontana Park is at the center of all of that. It is a real draw for Buchanan County. It helps with economic development. It helps retain people in our county, and it brings people into the region who want things to do and to have a good quality of life.”

– Dan Cohen, executive director of the Buchanan County Conservation Board 

Our actions to improve quality of life through natural resources:

Dollars Granted in 2021 to Parks & Trails Projects
Grants Made in 2021 to Parks & Trails Projects

Friends of Black Hawk County Conservation Board Fund

As the former executive director of the Black Hawk County Conservation Board, Vern Fish is passionate about conserving and expanding Iowa’s outdoor spaces. He’s even more devoted to ensuring outdoor opportunities are available for young Iowans. After the unexpected death of his daughter, Vern’s lead gift established the Friends of Black Hawk County Conservation Fund. The nonprofit fund supports internship opportunities, but Vern’s vision for the endowed fund is that it will help the Conservation Board leverage big projects to keep youth in our communities.

“I want to see young people be exposed to the outdoors and for our community to grow and build to provide that quality of life. It’s very personal for me to give young people those opportunities.”

– Vern Fish, lead donor