Axios Des Moines

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Hey there, Tuesday.

❄️ Weather: Chance of rain and snow with a high of 37Β°.

πŸŽ‚ Happy birthday to our Axios Des Moines member Ryan McNerney!

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Today's Smart Brevityβ„’ count is 752 words β€” a 2.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Fixing Iowa’s state parks

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Iowa's popular state parks need $100 million in infrastructure repairs, according to an internal state DNR report from November 2023.

Why it matters: Outdoor recreation has huge physical, social and economic benefits for the state, according to the agency's five-year plan for 2023-28.

State of play: The state's outdoor areas have experienced skyrocketing attendance since the pandemic, but the funding needed to maintain them has not kept up.

Driving the news: Despite the need for repairs, Iowa DNR executive director Kayla Lyon did not ask for any increases in her agency's status quo budget of $7.2 million this year, The Gazette first reported.

Between the lines: Lyon was appointed by Gov. Kim Reynolds, who has been advocating for "smaller government." Last year, Reynolds passed a bill reducing state agencies and jobs.

  • "People are scared of their own shadows. You're not allowed to say anything," David Downing, a former DNR executive officer, told Axios.

The big picture: Before Downing retired in January, he assessed all of Iowa's state parks and forests for the state agency. His report, obtained by Axios, estimated the need for $100 million in repairs.

  • The majority of the parks were in fair or poor condition and many did not have ADA accessible shelters and bathrooms, Downing shared in his report.
  • The DNR has faced several major cuts over the last 10 years, including to its forestry bureau, ranger housing and staff.

Zoom in: In central Iowa, Downing found the following parks needed repairs:

  • Walnut Woods had check-in stations, bathrooms, boat ramps and playgrounds that weren't ADA accessible. The road leading to the park is also rough.
  • Ledges' asphalt roads needed crack repairs and sealant. Dead ash trees needed to come down and a shelter had damage and a leaking roof due to a fallen tree.
  • Big Creek had a shelter that needed a new roof and several structures that weren't ADA accessible.

What they're saying: In a statement to The Gazette, DNR spokesperson Tammie Krausman said the department is proud of its focus on outdoor accessibility and continues to work on improvements for all park visitors.

The intrigue: Last month, the DNR held a meeting to discuss shelter repairs at Big Creek, but no timeline or budget has been set, WHO-13 reported.

The bottom line: "Parks are big business. They help the local communities that are close to the parks," Downing said.

  • In 2022, Iowa's outdoors contributed to an estimated nearly 43,000 jobs.

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2. πŸ“Ί Meet Iowa's "bird lady"

Photo: Courtesy of Iowa PBS

Iowa Bird Rehabilitation (IBR) will enter the spotlight tonight on Iowa PBS.

Why it matters: Bird populations have plummeted in recent decades.

  • IBR is saving hundreds of them each year from a DSM resident's backyard.

Catch up fast: Jenni Boonjakuakul's passion began more than 25 years ago after saving a baby crow from cats.

  • The "bird lady" obtained an Iowa wildlife rehabilitation permit in 2012 and started caring for injured wild birds out of her home.
  • She launched IBR as a non-profit in 2018 and soon raised enough money to add a building in her backyard for them.

State of play: Boonjakuakul and IBR volunteers have now cared for more than 11,000 birds, but the operation is outgrowing her Merle Hay home.

Watch it: The "Iowa Life" episode premieres tonight at 6:30pm and will rebroadcast Sunday at 10:30am.

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3. The Ear: Your news roundup

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

πŸ’΅ Iowa lawmakers' delay in passing school funding has slowed negotiations for teacher contracts. (Des Moines Register)

🎀 P!nk announced she's playing Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Oct. 24. (WHO-13)

Matt Bernhard, also known as "Mr. Porkchop Jr.," died on March 24. He was known for his RAGBRAI-famous porkchops. (Facebook)

πŸ€ Hawkeye women are heading to the Sweet 16 following a win last night against West Virginia, 65-54. (WHO-13)

A Windsor Heights video production owner was charged with 22 counts of possession of child pornography. (Des Moines Register)

4. πŸ€ 1 fun thing to go: Buy a basketball court

The floors used during basketball games at Wells Fargo Arena are frequently removed for other events. Photo: Courtesy of the Iowa Events Center

Iowa Wolves' former basketball court flooring is for sale in an online auction that ends at 10pm tonight.

Catch up fast: The portable floor was used at Wells Fargo Arena for about 20 years, primarily for state championship tournaments as well as dance and drill competitions.

State of play: The court was only sanded and repainted once. It has multiple refurbishes remaining, according to the sale description.

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😎 Same time, same place tomorrow.

This newsletter was edited by Emma Hurt and Lucia Maher.