Fish hatchery, 1 of 25 recipients, earns Love Our Byways grant

Local News

The Friends of the Fairport Fish Hatchery (FFFH) has been selected as a Love Our Byways micro-grant project. 

The award was given to only 25 projects from across the country, says a news release from the FFFH. Funding is given by the National Scenic Byway Foundation and American Park Network, along with Official Automotive Partner Toyota Motor North America, to support local byway beautification and conservation projects amplified by grassroots volunteerism.

FFFH will host a workday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Friday at the Fairport Fish Hatchery doing brush cleanup as part of its Interpretive Trail project. The project is designed to preserve and interpret the rich history of the hatchery, the release says.

“This grant and workday will bring us closer to having Phase I, the North Trail, completed by later this fall,” said Sandy Stevens, president of the Friends group. “The North Trail will allow visitors to explore the living quarters and water cistern ruins, where some of the country’s premier biologists lived while researching at the hatchery.”

Volunteers for the Friday event are welcome. Individuals and groups willing to help with the event are encouraged to contact Stevens via email at

Hatchery history

The Fairport Federal Biological Station opened in 1910 to investigate whether artificial mussel propagation could help restore viable mussel populations in the Mississippi River. Researchers and scientists used the best science and technology of the day in their efforts.

For nearly 25 years, freshwater mussels had been over-harvested throughout the Mississippi River by the pearl button industry.

The U. S. Government hoped to sustain, if not restore, mussel populations in support of the button industry. The government built a five-cottage village for the director, staff biologists and workers, and VIP visitors, the release says, and adds “The undisputed ‘founder’ of the freshwater pearl button industry, John Boepple, was the first to live in the guest cottage after he left his business to devote his attention to research conducted at the Fairport hatchery.”

In addition to the Love Our Byways micro-grant, the Friends group has received a REAP-CEP grant funding from the Iowa DNR, private donations, and in-kind goods and services to support this and other educational projects. Also, the Historical Resource Development Program (HRDP) provided a grant to nominate the former biological station to the National Register of Historic Places. 

The Friends group is a volunteer organization formed last year as an adjunct of the Muscatine County Historic Preservation Commission. 

For more information about America’s Byways and Toyota’s support, visit here.

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