As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Jefferson County Conservation, we would like to highlight several of the people who have made such an impact on our organization. When it comes to a legacy of conservation, Carl Zillman is a name that quickly bubbles to the top of the list.
Carl served on the Jefferson County Conservation Board for twenty years from 1975 into 1995. During this time, he also served as the Jefferson County weed commissioner, began a tree distribution program to area 4th graders, and was elected chairman of the Fifth District Iowa County Conservation Board. He was a member of the board when the original 117 acres of Jefferson County Park were purchased. By the time he retired, the park had grown to 175 acres.
In 1986 Carl and his wife Mary donated 46 acres to Jefferson County Conservation, known now as Zillman’s Hickory Hills. This park has a mix of habitats which include three ponds, timber, and a prairie which hosts numerous animals including migrating monarch butterflies in the fall as they journey south to Mexico. The park is a wonderful setting for hiking, fishing, and bird watching.
In 1992 the Zillman’s donated funds to establish the, Mary and Carl Zillman Conservation Scholarship Fund, a yearly scholarship to advance education in the field of conservation, wildlife management, or other related fields. These funds are managed by the Greater Jefferson County Foundation, and are offered to Fairfield High School graduates furthering their education in the aforementioned areas of study. Over $35,000 has been awarded to date.
In 1993 Carl won the prestigious Lawrence and Eula Hagie Heritage Award. The award is one of the largest Conservation awards in the nation and is designed to bring attention to those who have been particularly committed to improving the quality of Iowa’s natural environment. In the previous year Carl was awarded Citizen of the Year by the Fairfield Area Chamber of Commerce in recognition of his conservation work. By this time Carl had earned the moniker: Mr. Conservation.
A sizeable collection of Native American artifacts was donated to the Jefferson County Conservation Board by Carl and Mary in 1981. They decided to donate the collection so it would remain in Jefferson County where most of the artifacts were found. Many of the items were found along Skunk River, Cedar Creek, and the Des Moines River in addition to Jefferson County farm fields. The collection is comprised of around 500 arrowheads, stone knives, spear heads, tomahawks and other specimens displayed in the entry and in glass enclosures in the Nature Center.
Without Carl’s drive and passion for Conservation, Jefferson County Conservation would be a lesser place.