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Mildred Hach Grimes Observation Tower

May 31, 2010 - Mike Donahey

Private-public partnership.
The term is used to describe a project which uses a combination of private monies and public, or tax-payer dollars.
Periodically such a project, true to the definition, is made known to us in the Newsroom. Such was the case for the May 29 dedication of the Mildred Hach Grimes Observation Tower at the Marshalltown Conservation Board’s GrimesFarm and Conservation Center west of town.
The three-tiered tower, with its top tier at 33 feet, cost $30,000.
The Grimes family paid a portion from memorials given in Mildred’s honor when she died in 2006. MCCB paid some and vigorously solicited and received much in-kind labor and materials from Alliant Energy, Consumers Energy and others.
To keep the cost low, all construction work was done by MCCB employees Marty Malloy and Jeremiah Manken.
Wells and Associates of West Des Moines provided design and engineering services free-of-charge.
According to daughter Carrie Grimes Barr, a $130,000 bid had been initially received, but the MCCB and staff looked it over and said it could be built for less. And they did.
The tower offers a dramatic view of the GrimesFarm, the Conservation Center and land for miles around, thanks to the permanent and free-of-charge binoculars on the third tier. The binoculars are a fitting memorial to infant Charley Grimes Rowekamp, Barr’s great-nephew who died in child-birth shortly after Mildred. He was named for Mildred’s father, Charley Hach, of Green Mountain.
Barr described Hach as “an extremely gifted mechanic and thinker,” and a “glue who held the community together” in coordinating thrashing events.
To the east of the tower one sees the the farm purchased by Mildred and Leonard in 1964. Over the years, they developed the property as a model of conservation practices and educational opportunities for the public. They planted over 200,000 trees and repaired a serious erosion problem, which daughter Martha Grimes Isaacson described as “gullies so deep you could walk in them.”
They did more.
They planted a direct seed forest in 2004 on land not suitable for farming. It is the first of its kind in Central Iowa. The seed forest is already producing a variety of oak and walnut trees.
Isaacson said the tower was important to the family because her mother “had talked about a tower for years and had brought designs to the Conservation Board, telling them that (visitors) needed to be able to see the land and the tower was an ideal way to do that. So, we remember mom talking about it and that is why we are really pleased with it.”
So should the taxpayers and others who made the project possible.
“We like to think of this as the high point to her dedication to the environment,” said MCCB board member Jerry Gaffney of Marshalltown.
Located at 2359–233 St., the GrimesFarm is open from 5:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily. Conservation Center hours are M–F 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon March through November. Contact the MCCB at 641-752-5490 or



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