One of the things that first interested Chris Dunkin in working in Clarke County was the chance to interact with people.
“I love the people. It’s more of a laid-back atmosphere,” said Dunkin, the new director of Clarke County Conservation Department. “I got family around here. I love bow hunting. I love the outdoor opportunities that are in southern Iowa.”
Dunkin, 27, has been on the job for a few months. His first day was in late October.
“It’s just been a learning process, but I’m enjoying every minute of it,” Dunkin.
Dunkin grew up south of Knoxville, attended Iowa State University and received a bachelor’s degree in animal ecology.
While attending Iowa State University, Dunkin worked for Marion County Conservation for four summers. He also worked for Iowa Department of Natural Resources as a water-patrol officer for two summers.
“After doing that, I got hired by the Newton Police Department,” Dunkin. “So, I worked in Newton for just under two years as a police officer. And, then, I wanted to get back into the conservation field, so I took a position with Black Hawk County Conservation as a park ranger there.”
That’s when Dunkin saw the position with Clarke County Conservation was available.
“It interested me, and I wanted to get back to southern Iowa,” Dunkin said.
Exploring new opportunities for the conservation department is one thing Dunkin said he likes about his new job.
“I just think, from my other work experience, that there’s a lot of ideas that can be implemented here — such as a campground, archery range, cabins — and I want to be progressive, and I want to give the citizens of Clarke County those opportunities,” Dunkin said.
According to Dunkin, an archery range located north of the conservation office at East Lake Park should be done by April. It will be free for public use and have target ranges of 10 to 50 yards.
Funding for the archery range is covered in the department’s budget. The targets have been donated by Delta Targets.
Another idea currently in the works is a campground on the east side of East Lake Park.
“We are in the planning process, and hopefully, we will break ground with the campground this summer,” Dunkin said. “I think there’s a lot of interest here from talking to people (who) want a campground, and I think that it’s in a good location.”
Dunkin said one of the main funding sources would be through the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program. REAP is a program in Iowa that invests in the enhancement and protection of the state’s natural and cultural resources.
Depending on the individual programs, REAP provides money for projects through state-agency budgets or in the form of grants.
Dunkin said the department is looking at creating a budget for the campground, and the total cost could depend on how elaborate each campground site is designed.
“There’s a huge array of possibilities,” Dunkin said.