Des Moines Register
June 1, 1998
Opinion: The Register's Editorials
From topography to tourism
With the help of all the technical data they could lay hands on, an Iowa State University class in landscape architecture studied western Iowas Loess Hills and came up with an outline for a national park, pinpointing some of the issues that park status raises. The class and instructors Paul Anderson and Jane Chen built their "Landscape Inventory and Analysis" work into a "National Park Site Selection Study."
It makes for interesting reading, defining issues that will be important in wrestling with the nitty-gritty as the national park idea progresses.
The class divided into teams to study the seven-county Loess Hills area from a variety of viewpoints: geology, topography, waters, soils, vegetation, wildlife, demographics, tourism and more. The three member "soils" team, for example, focused on a problem that demands attention in any use of the big hills:
"The Loess Hills have great potential for being made into a National Park because of their uniqueness, but, because of their fragility, they also have great potential for being destroyed....
"Steep slopes are susceptible to erosion, or soil loss, when grading changes take place. This makes proper planning for construction of support services like roads and buildings vital....
"The fragility of the hills should be the biggest determining factor in the type of National Park that is developed."
As local residents know, concern for that fragility must guide every use, whether the use involves heavy farming equipment, heavy foot traffic concentrated on a portion of prairie or the selection of a building site.
For more than a decade, Iowa geologists have warned of the potential perils of building on the high mounds of loess.
Their research also resulted in selection of general areas they felt should be included in any national park (see accompanying map).
Shaded areas within seven western Iowa counties are suggested cores
for national park development, as envisioned by Iowa State University
In a test given at the conclusion of their intensive study of the hills,
the students were asked which specific features should predominate in guiding
the choice of park sites. Some answers: Wildlife and vegetation . .
. . The geological history and the plant life . . . . Threatened and endangered
species . . . . If the vegetation is healthy, the wildlife are . . . . Visual
resources . . . . Uniqueness . . . . Geology, history . . . . Topography.
If its so rough the public cant use it, they wont . . . . The potential to educate visitors.
All in all, not a bad analysis for a class working almost entirely from the reports and observations of others.
Paul Anderson's home page
Last revision: 4 June 98