The Linn Co. Chapter of the Izaak Walton League was chartered on June 21, 1945. The charter itself is on display in our chapter house located at 5401 42nd St. NE in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. There are over 90 signatures on it and while their names may be faded and, in some cases, unreadable, their reasons for signing it are not. They took an oath that night that was based on the current Pledge…
“To Strive for the purity of water, the clarity of air, and the wise stewardship of the land and its resources; to know the beauty and understanding of nature and the value of wildlife, woodlands and open space; to the preservation of the heritage and to man’s sharing in it. I pledge myself as a member of the Izaak Walton League of America.”
These individuals were deeply concerned for the water quality of the Cedar River and, on a larger scale, water quality throughout the United States. They were concerned about wildlife; stocking fish and reintroducing game birds to the wild and improving habitat. They wanted to work together for such things as the betterment of the Upper Mississippi River basin resources and its tributaries - for the woodlands such as the Yellow River Forest and Shimek Forest and for local forestation projects via tree plantings. They also foresaw the need for education of the youth on safe firearms handling and wildlife education; for improved farmer – hunter relations and for sustainable agricultural practices. The list goes on and it was and still is the right thing to do.
The Izaak Walton League has added a concise Mission Statement that reads:
“To conserve, maintain, protect and restore the Soil, Forest, Water and other natural resources of the United States; to promote means and opportunities for the education of the public with respect to such resources and their enjoyment and wholesome utilization.”
Both the Pledge and the Mission Statement reflect the true meaning of a diverse and all-encompassing conservation organization. There is no one specialty topic or resource that the Izaak Walton League is focused on, rather an overarching one that benefits all resources, whether it is a physical element such as water or soil, or a living organism found in woodlands, prairies or waters. The “Ike’s” are there for all.
The local history of the Linn Co. Chapter has been a diverse one. Soon after the charter was approved, the chapter purchased 50 acres of land “5 miles out of town”, at its current location 5401 42nd Street NE. The land was christened “Walton Oaks” in honor of Izaak Walton and the numerous pin oak trees (strong and hardy) on the property. Soon followed gatherings such as picnics, range creations and shooting events and then a chapter house (heated only by a fireplace for a number of years) to hold regular meetings or classes. The Linn Co. Chapter has consistently been one of the larger Chapters in the State of Iowa, numbering around 400 to 500 members per year. The chapter is one of 47 in the state of Iowa and approximately 240 found nationwide.
Today the Walton Oaks grounds contain a first class, updated Chapter house, ranges that include; trap, archery, outdoor pistol, rifle, air gun and action pistol as well as a state-of-the-art heated indoor pistol range. The grounds are well maintained offering shelter structures and grills, a bird feeder station and viewing house and acres of open ground for the members to use. The Chapter offers Iowa DNR Hunter Education classes, a variety of firearms safety classes, National Hunting and Fishing Day celebrations, Boy, Girl and Cub Scout sponsorships and activities, informative meeting presentations and of course fellowship with like-minded Ike’s. The Ike’s have sponsored Save Our Streams and children’s Creek Freak activities on local streams and the Cedar River to test for water quality and to clean them of debris. Very soon we plan to begin a monarch butterfly habitat wayside area on our grounds, set-up a bee hive apiary, improve our bird viewing house and site and revitalize our nature trail.
Other areas the Linn County Chapter is looking to once again participate in beyond those mentioned earlier are to; provide conservation education opportunities for teachers that they can then take back to their classrooms; be a larger community presence with regards to the areas found within our charter and to be a voice for change or support when needed with the public and our legislators at the local, state and national levels on issues related to our “BIG 5”; soil, air, woods, water and wildlife.