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Cinderblocks, wires & trees: how all-natural fish habitats are creating a brighter future for a local lake

The homemade structures will sink into Crow Creek Wildlife Management Area's lake this spring. Iowa's DNR says it'll create a better ecosystem and community space.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Over 20 volunteers spent Saturday morning dragging cedar trees out onto Crow Creek Wildlife Management Area's frozen lake. Each plant was tied with wire into groups, then anchored down with cinderblocks.

When the ice opens up and the trees sink this spring, they'll fall to their strategic spots on the lake's bottom and become new, all-natural fish habitats.

The cover for the lake's bluegill fish, largemouth bass, and channel catfish will help boost diversity, and create a richer fishing environment. 

"Fish can tuck up into all those little nooks and crannies and covers and provide them the security that they need," said Kurt Kemmerer, a wildlife biologist for Iowa's Department of Natural Resources. "This lake in particular really doesn't have a lot of natural cover. It was an old quarry pit so it really is just kind of a deep bowl and is lacking a lot of diversity down at the bottom and a lot of natural cover." 

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It also cleared out some of the invasive foliage along the banks of the lake, which Kemmerer says will allow them to restore the area to a natural grassland, thus creating a better ecosystem for the animals on dry land as well.

It's part of a joint effort to boost the community appeal of the Crow Creek Wildlife Management Area, which sits about ten minutes north of Davenport. For years, foliage along the banks of the lake has overgrown, and the area has become a popular spot for people to hang out in and drink at.

Now, the Iowa DNR has teamed up with Partners of Scott County Watersheds, in order to cut back on some of the brush and instead create more lake access, picnic areas, and better fishing. 

"We think having these areas close to urban and suburban neighborhoods is important because we know people want recreation, but we know they kind of want it at their fingertips, so to speak," explained Kemmerer. "So the less they have to load up and drive an hour or two to get somewhere of quality recreation, the better. It means a lot to us to be able to provide this right in people's backyards." 

The wildlife area is one of the few public places in Scott County where the public can come fish, and according to Partners of Scott County Watersheds, it was a natural fit to team up with the DNR to help restore the area. 

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"It's a nice, small area, so people feel comfortable bringing their small kids out here and it's just right in town so it's super convenient for people," said Cassie Druhl, coordinator for PSCW. "It's a lot different from the area that many people remember fishing and hunting in when they were younger. We want to make sure people still want to come here and that it's an easy place to find and get to."

PSCW plans on hosting more volunteer events at the wildlife area throughout the summer, including a few trash cleanups. They also partner with area cities to provide more opportunities for anyone who wants to get out and enjoy the outdoors, while cleaning up their community. 

Their next one will be on March 4, at Davenport Public Works, where they'll host a water quality monitoring event. 

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