There’s a gift that’s been giving back to the community for years now. 

A Maquoketa native left more than 250 acres of land to Jackson County when he died. 

He wanted his private land to be enjoyed by the public. 

You can find more than 51 different species of birds, as well as deer and turkeys. 

Now, the 273 acres is called Prairie Creek Recreation Center…

“It’s kind of an exciting story; a few years ago back in 2014 a gentleman who had passed away had bequeathed this, his farm here, to the conservation board and he wanted to see it used by the public as an outdoor area to explore,” explains Jessica Wagner, environmental education coordinator at the Jackson County Conservation.

Wagner says the conservation board worked to honor Robert Martin’s wishes since the park’s inception. 

“We first sought out input from the public; what kind of outdoor activities did they want to see? The park belongs to the public and we wanted to know what they thought could be out here,” Wagner says. 

Over the past four years, crews have worked on many items on that list. 

“They wanted it connected to town, so we do have an access right from the city of Maquoketa to get to the park, people wanted a place to have a picnic,” says Wagner. 

The picnic area and pavilion opened up last November. 

Park officials have also put in a two-acre fishing pond. 

“We stocked it last year with Large Mouth Bass, Catfish and Bluegill. Still catch and release, they’re kind of little, so cast a line but still catch and release for a couple years,” Wagner says. 

County Supervisor Larry McDevitt says there’s more to come for neighbors. 

“We’re having the plans drawn for up on our hill here we’re putting in 50 full-hookup camp sites along with 25 tent campsites, shower rooms, probably another shelter,” McDevitt says. 

McDevitt and Wagner say community response has been overwhelming. 

“We started out, we put in 18 parking spaces here last year and three months ago we decided that was not enough so we put another 18 in just to keep up with the traffic coming here,” says McDevitt.  

They hope to keep people coming back– Whether it be to kayak on the creek or hike more than five miles of trails.  

“You don’t often get a donation like this, a land donation this size; what a wonderful thing for the community,” Wagner says.