People & Places

Orlan Love Prairie to be dedicated Tuesday

Rich and Candy Altorfer gift adds to goal of 1,000 acres in prairie in Linn County by 2020

Orlan Love walks through a 6.6-acre prairie that was planted in 2017 in Squaw Creek Park in Marion and will be named in his honor during a 4 p.m. Tuesday dedication. Love was a reporter and outdoors columnist for The Gazette for 25 years before retiring in December 2016. A $200,000 gift from Rich and Candy Altorfer of Cedar Rapids made the prairie possible. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Orlan Love walks through a 6.6-acre prairie that was planted in 2017 in Squaw Creek Park in Marion and will be named in his honor during a 4 p.m. Tuesday dedication. Love was a reporter and outdoors columnist for The Gazette for 25 years before retiring in December 2016. A $200,000 gift from Rich and Candy Altorfer of Cedar Rapids made the prairie possible. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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MARION — Monarch butterflies have many amazing qualities, from the fat caterpillars growing on plants in Orlan Love’s yard to the chrysalises they soon will create — a point in the insect’s life cycle he called “a thing of beauty.”

But it’s the monarch’s 2,000-mile migration — from Mexico to the northern United States and Canada — that Love finds awe-inspiring.

“You think about something like that ... there’s some grand design going on,” Love said.

“You might not go to church every Sunday, but you kind of get that cosmic connection when you’re out in nature and certain things strike you, that there’s some kind of a real neat plan that we don’t understand.”

On Tuesday, in recognition of Love’s decades of reporting and writing about nature, conservation and the environment, a 6.6-acre pollinator prairie will be named in his honor.

The Orlan Love Prairie will be dedicated at 4 p.m. near Red Cedar Lodge at Squaw Creek Park in Marion. The ceremony is open to the public. The rain date is Wednesday.

Altorfer gift

Rich and Candy Altorfer of Cedar Rapids donated $200,000 to the Monarch Research Project, a nonprofit run by their friend Clark McLeod of Cedar Rapids, to establish a prairie bearing Love’s name.

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The Altorfers initially wanted their gift to be anonymous, but McLeod eventually convinced them to be recognized as the donors, thinking it might inspire others to donate to the cause, Rich Altorfer said.

“We had met (Love) for the first time at a meeting concerning the Monarch Research Project, and I happened to have my mother-in-law (Deleva Stevenson) with me,” Rich Altorfer said. “She just loves his writings. It’s kind of in her honor as well.”

Love was a reporter and outdoors columnist for most of the 25 years he worked at The Gazette before retiring in December 2016.

The Monarch Research Project and Linn County Conservation planted Love’s prairie in 2017. It includes milkweed, the food source for monarch caterpillars, clover, yarrow and other native plants, all aimed at supporting pollinators like butterflies and bees.

McLeod said Love “is a great outdoors writer because he puts a lot of emotion and real-life experience into his adventures in the outdoors. He’s been part of the movement to restore habitat and save the monarch butterfly. So he does more than the written word.”

1,000-acre plan

To help increase habitat for the struggling monarch, McLeod and others put together the 1,000 Acre Plan, a partnership between the Monarch Research Project, Linn County Conservation and the cities of Cedar Rapids and Marion.

The idea is to make Linn County a national model for restoration of the monarch, which remains an endangered species though the annual count in January was the highest since 2006.

Under the 1,000 Acre Plan, the cities and Linn County provide the land and maintain the habitats while the Monarch Research Project provides the seeds and supplies to establish more prairie habitat in the county. The Hall-Perrine Foundation pledged $300,000 to match private dollars donated to the project.

The goal is to restore pollinator habitat to 1,000 acres of public land by 2020.

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In the project’s first two years, about 605 acres were planted, with another 197 or so planned for this year. Three-year totals, by subdivision, will be 297 acres in Cedar Rapids, 73 acres in Marion and 407 acres in Linn County.

“The Monarch Research Project is about restoration of habitat in general,” McLeod said. “The monarch is really the rallying cry for putting native habitat back throughout the county.”

Five of the Linn County prairie habitats are at Squaw Creek Park, with the Orlan Love Prairie the most prominent and closest to Red Cedar Lodge.

“Just what is being done in the 1,000 Acre Plan will replenish the milkweed stems in the county to the tune of about one-third of what we need to replenish in order to have a sustainable monarch population,” McLeod said.

Another program, the 1,000 Mile Pilot, undertaken in conjunction with the Linn County Secondary Roads Department, aims to seed 1,000 miles of roadside ditches with prairie habitat.

In addition, the nonprofit runs the Million Seed Giveaway, which provides milkweed and prairie seeds to county residents — 714 households so far

“We’ve lost millions of acres of native habitat, and this has crushed the populations of insects that we refer to as pollinators,” McLeod said. “Moths, butterflies and bees are the primaries.”

‘Common denominator’

Love is doing his part for the monarchs. He been putting caterpillars on the milkweed plants in his Quasqueton yard, near the Wapsipinicon River, for several years. He’s built tents to protect them from predators and tracks their reproduction.

It’s enjoyable work, he said.

In regard to the prairie named in his honor, Love said it’s “very humbling.”

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A sign being installed at the prairie reads, in part, “Orlan’s stories are credited with raising public awareness of the need to protect natural resources in Eastern Iowa and beyond the state’s borders. This prairie is a living tribute to a much-loved writer and conservationist.”

Love said he still has people come up to him and say they liked something he wrote.

“But I think it goes really deeper than that,” he said. “I didn’t just write about threats to the environment or what people were doing about it, but about people enjoying the environment.

“And that’s one thing I’ve tried to do over the years because I think nature is like the common denominator for people.”

Reaching 1,000 acres

Here are the acres being planted and preserved as prairie in Linn County, toward the goal of 1,000 acres in prairie by 2020.

2019

Linn County Conservation Acres

Buffalo Creek: 3.8

Buffalo Creek: 5.2

Buffalo Creek: 17.8

Hitaga Sand Prairie: 1.85

Hitaga Sand Prairie: 9.69

Hitaga Sand Prairie: 4.6

Blue Creek: 3.29

Blue Creek: 21.2

Blue Creek: 5.99

Goose Pond: 7.3

Morgan Creek: 3.1

Morgan Creek: 22

Squaw Creek: 9.8

Chain Lakes: 14.5

Chain Lakes: 6.3

Chain Lakes: 3

Total: 139.42

Cedar Rapids Parks acres

Cherokee Park: 4.06

Delaney Park: 4.28

Jacolyn/Vinton Ditch: 4.13

Lincolnway Park: 2.56

Shawnee Park: 2.94

Manhattan-Robins Lake Park: 4.63

Navajo Park: 5.18

Total: 27.78

Marion Parks Acres

Lowe Park Replant: 18.69

Alburnett Rd. @ Echo Hill Ditch : 1.50

Public Service Eco Industrial Park: 9.50

Total: 29.69

2018

Linn County Conservation acres

Pinicon Ridge Park White oak hill: 2.0

Pinicon Ridge Park CC-Pinicon trail: 4.0

Matsell Bridge Natural Area Chudzinski Addition: 15.0

Matsell Bridge Natural Area Carpenter Addition: 2.5

Squaw Creek Park South of shop: 11.0

Squaw Creek Park Dump station: 15.0

Goose Pond Old food plot: 2.0

Chain Lakes Bradley Additiopn: 36.0

MorganCreek Park Crop lease: 22.0

Buffalo Creek Natural Area West pasture: 12.0

Whickiup Hill Enhance front: 5.0

Kerr Acquisition: 27.0

Total: 153.5

Cedar Rapids Parks acres

Treatment Plant Ag Field: 62.0

Cherry Hill Park: 7.0

Gardner Golf Course: 17.0

Total: 86.0

Marion Parks acres

Indian Creek Road and 29th Ave: 12.0

Waldo’s Rock Park: 4.0

Total: 16.0

2017

Linn County Conservation acres

Squaw Creek Park: 47.50

Morgan Creek Park: 32.75

Pinicon Ridge Park: 8.00

Matsell Pine and Prairie Trail: 37.13

Chudzinki Addition: 15.74

Total: 141.12

Cedar Rapids Parks acres

Bever Park: 1.14

Beverly Park: 10.29

Noelridge Park: 8.10

Seminole Valley Park: 21.55

Sun Valley Park: 1.73

Wilderness Estates: 0.99

Ellis Golf Course: 6.56

Jones Golf Course: 3.83

Twin Pines Golf Course: 1.95

Gardner Golf Course: 16.88

Sac Fox Fir Ave: 82.00

Squaw Creek Park: 11.28

Tuma Skyhawks: 15.50

Total: 181.79

Marion Parks acres

Lowe Park: 22.00

Waldo’s Rock Park: 5.00

Total: 27.00

• Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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