CEDAR RAPIDS — Growing up south of Dubuque near the small Iowa community of Key West, Dan Biechler most often could be found in the valleys near his house hiking, looking for wildlife or exploring a nearby stream.
Biechler’s interest in the outdoors was so deep-rooted, it led him down a more than four-decade-long path focused on conserving the natural areas he loved so much.
However, after 42 years with Linn County Conservation, the last 30 spent as the county department’s executive director, Biechler, 64, has announced his plans to retire.
He’ll never fully give up his dedication to conservation, he said.
“I’m looking forward to recalibrating my life. I do anticipate that I’ll stay connected to Linn County Conservation,” he said.
Biechler’s work in Linn County began in the early 1970s — before he was even a county employee — during his time as a student at Iowa State University.
In a forestry course, Biechler worked with a team of students to develop a master plan for Linn County’s Wakpicada Natural Area. The course idea was proposed by then Linn County Conservation Director George Hamilton.
Impressed with Biechler’s work, Hamilton that next spring offered him a summer internship with the county. Biechler thought the job wouldn’t last more than a year, but it resulted in a 42-year career with Linn County.
“It’s kind of funny how things work out sometimes,” he said.
In 1988, Biechler became the second person to hold the department’s executive director title.
Biechler said it’s difficult to sum up his time with Linn County. Some of the more memorable achievements include the creation of the Wickiup Hill Learning Center, the acquisition of lands for the county’s many natural areas, park and trail expansions and last year’s passage of the $40 million Linn County Water and Land Legacy bond.
To honor Biechler’s service, Linn County officials plan to name a future pedestrian bridge — located at the site of the former Milwaukee Road Railroad Bridge over the Cedar River — Biechler Bridge.
Biechler said he was surprised to hear the future bridge’s name.
“I’m honored to think that this has happened,” he said.
As for the next executive director, the Linn County Conservation Board will make that decision, likely early next year, Biechler said.
In retirement, Biechler said he hopes to spend some time with his twin brother, Denis, and his expanding family — his fourth grandkid is on the way — and find time to travel more.
IF YOU GO
— What: Retirement open house for Dan Biechler
— When: 2 to 5 p.m. Jan. 12
— Where: Squaw Creek Park’s Red Cedar Lodge, 1700 Big Bluestem Dr., Marion
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