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Maria Koschmeder, Iowa County naturalist, let go Wednesday, Nov. 11

By NICK NARIGON

naturalist
Maria Koschmeder

Long-time Iowa County Naturalist Maria Koschmeder has been let go by the Iowa County Conservation Board and those involved are keeping mum as to the reason why.

Iowa County Conservation Director Lee Sorenson said Koschmeder was let go by unanimous decision following a closed session of the Iowa County Conservation Board Wednesday, Nov. 11.

“She is no longer with the Iowa County Conservation Board and we wish her the best,” Sorenson said.

Iowa County Conservation Board member Vic Rathje said Koschmeder’s termination is a personnel matter and cannot be discussed publicly.

Koschmeder also said it is best if she does not comment on the issue at this time.

“I don’t think I can talk about this,” Koschmeder said. “First of all, it is too close yet. I don’t know what I am going to do next. I think it is best if I don’t comment.”

Koschmeder, 50, Williamsburg, was hired by the Iowa County Conservation Board as the naturalist in 1990. For eight years, Koschmeder’s duties were shared with Poweshiek County, and in 1998 she was hired as the full-time Iowa County Naturalist.

The main duties of the naturalist are to provide conservation education programming, organize campground programming and publish the Iowa County Conservation Department newsletter.

Koschmeder became a fixture in Iowa County schools. She came to classes to give lessons about nature, or she took classrooms on field trips to places such as Lake Iowa, Gateway Park, Old Man’s Creek and overnight trips to Springbrook, which she said was her favorite.

Koschmeder said some weeks she had field trips all day, every day.

“I really did love my job. Everyday was something different,” she said. “The students gave so much back to me. There was very rarely a bad day.”

Koschmeder did not comment on what her next course of action will be, and she said she does not know what the future holds.

“Whatever happens in the future, it will be related to working outside with kids,” she said.

When Koschmeder was hired as the full-time Iowa County naturalist in 1998, she said she saw the need for new facilities for education programs. She started the efforts to build the Lake Iowa Nature Center.

After nearly 10 years of fundraising for the $1 million project, the groundbreaking for the nature center was held this past summer. The project remains under construction.

“I still think I did the right thing. It was something we needed here,” Koschmeder said. “It will hurt a little bit knowing I will never get to use (the nature center). But it was never for me. It was for the people of Iowa County to have a place to go. That was always the purpose. I’m not going to be able to use it, but at least somebody else will.”

Randall Betz, chairman of the Friends of Lake Iowa Nature Center Foundation said Koschmeder was instrumental in starting the nature center project and she kept the organization on task.

“The nature center wouldn’t be there without her. I hate to see her leave before it is done,” Betz said.

The foundation will continue fundraising efforts to help pay for the future needs and day to day operations of the nature center, Betz said. “I am sorry to see her go. She worked very hard and we will have to do our best to move forward without her.”

Conservation director Sorenson said the board plans to begin the process to hire a new Iowa County naturalist.

“We will put somebody on staff as a naturalist as soon as possible,” Sorenson said.

UPDATED November 18, 2009 2:26 PM

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