A More Beautiful IowaIowa's State Parks System
Just under a year after the United States Congress established the National Park Service in 1916, Iowa’s 37th General Assembly approved the passage of a comprehensive bill 1 establishing a state park system for the state of Iowa on April 12, 1917. Prior to it’s passage, Iowa had only about 10 acres of woods, lakes, and rivers where the public could enjoy the outdoors without trespassing on private property outside of state levees, docks, and city parks. Today in 2017, Iowa’s more than 71 state parks and recreational areas attract millions of visitors each year and provide places of outdoor solitude, recreation, and natural beauty. With the passage of the 1917 state park bill, Iowa became a national leader in the state park movement. Many Iowa State individuals were a part of the state park movement, including one of its central leaders, botanist Louis Pammel.
Once founded, leaders struggled to balance resource protection with the development of amenities for park visitors. Despite the struggles surrounding how best to use and develop the state parks of Iowa, their history and existence can be enjoyed by everyone thanks to the diligent efforts of conservation-minded individuals in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
This exhibit is an exploration of the origins of the Iowa State Parks system and Iowa State University’s contributions to the system’s development.