Late man’s dream becoming a reality

The O’Brien County Conservation Board is working to clean up a site northeast of Paullina for the Crosbie Wildlife & Nature Youth Center. Photo by Josh Harrell

PAULLINA—Sometimes cooperation between two entities comes along naturally.

The Crosbie Wildlife & Nature Youth Center, located at 4270 Roosevelt Ave. about six miles northeast of Paullina, is the result of a cooperative effort between the O’Brien County Conservation Board and the Theodore “Ted” and Rowena Crosbie family.

The conservation board has been working with the Crosbie family since March 2016 on the project.

“The Crosbie family is teaming with the conservation board to manage the 160-acre property originally purchased by Ted’s great-great-grandfather,” said conservation board director Terry Boltjes. “Love of the land and a will to conserve it were passed down through the generations to family members.”

With the Crosbie family, the conservation board has 13 years left on a 15-year federal Conservation Reserve Program lease, which means the conservation board manages the land while the Crosbie family still owns it.

‘A profound impact’

The conservation board is slowing changing the Crosbie family farm.

“We want to turn that into a youth hunting facility just for kids, accompanied by a licensed adult,” Boltjes said.

Ted’s vision was to honor all of his family and his upbringing by instilling his passion for conservation in today’s youth.

Rowena, who would have celebrated 25 years of marriage to Ted this year, said the Crosbie Wildlife & Nature Youth Center honors the memories of her late husband; his youngest brother, Calvin; his father, Owen; and other members of the family.

The land has been in the Crosbie family since 1901 and is owned by Ted’s mother, Mildred, who lives in Pella.

“The original vision of it was really to create a terrific space up there in northwest Iowa,” Rowena said. “My husband was a little troubled that we were losing a lot of public land for youth to be able to hunt on and learn how to do that safely, and do it with sensible conservation practices. It was really an interest in that that drove him to create the vision for it.”

Multiple purposes

Boltjes said one of the two buildings on the property will be used for storage, while the other will be remodeled and used for multiple purposes, such as hunter safety classes and an educational facility where area students can study native prairie.

“The area has been placed into the CRP with fields laid out in a manner that will be conducive for optimal youth hunting experiences,” Boltjes said. “Other elements of the project will include hunting blinds on both upland and wetland areas and a 3-D archery area.”

The O’Brien County chapter of Pheasants Forever donated $15,000 to help facilitate the cleanup of the Crosbie family farm.

B&R Excavating of Sutherland cleared off old buildings, scrap metal pieces, tires and trees from the property in November.

Farmer Jerry Nieuwenhuis of Prim­ghar soon will put food plots for deer and pheasants on the land.

Boltjes and his employees will work on the property throughout the summer.

“We’ll go out there and start mowing the fire break, do weed control and possibly set up the shooting range and trapshooting range,” he said.

‘A lasting legacy’

Boltjes first met Ted in 2015 when the conservation board assisted him with planting CRP land on the Crosbie family’s Century Farm located about halfway between Paullina and Primghar.

“I had the honor of meeting and getting to know one of Iowa’s true visionaries,” Boltjes said. “He came briefly into my personal and professional scope and made a profound impact in a short amount of time.”

Ted, a 1969 Paullina High School graduate, was a world-renowned researcher for Monsanto, a sustainable agriculture company; a distinguished alumnus of Iowa State University in Ames; the chief technology officer for the state of Iowa under three governors and much more.

“Ted approached the conservation board with the idea of creating a youth hunting area on his family’s land,” Boltjes said. “Over time, Ted developed a plan to honor his family roots and provide hunting opportunities for youth.”

However, Ted died on July 23, 2016, at the age of 65 after a sudden illness, although that did not stop his family from moving forward with his dreams.

He had been living on a 289-acre farm near Earlham with Rowena, horses, dogs and cats at the time of his death. He enjoyed managing about 1,000 total acres of Iowa farmland.

Boltjes said Winnebago County in north-central Iowa is the only other place he knows of that has a place — a former Century Farm now called the Holland Prairie Conservation and Youth Hunting Area — similar to the Crosbie Wildlife & Nature Youth Center.

The conservation board is really appreciative of the Crosbie family’s help in creating a unique area in O’Brien County dedicated to youth hunting.

“The project is intended to be a state-of-the-art endeavor begun by a man of vision dedicated to providing hands-on experiences for future generations to enable them to learn about soils, wildlife and nature,” Boltjes said.

“The conservation board is honored to assist the Crosbie family as they fulfill Ted’s wishes and provide a lasting legacy,” he said.


Children ages 11-15 are invited to experience an adventure sponsored by the O’Brien County Conservation Board and the O’Brien Coun­ty chapter of Pheasants Forever.

The O’Brien County Outdoor Quest has been scheduled for Monday-Tuesday, July 17-18, at the Prairie Heritage Center near Sutherland, Dog Creek Park near Sutherland and the Crosbie Wildlife & Nature Youth Center near Paullina.

The only cost for the event will be for a hunter safety education course fee. All other costs will be covered by the sponsors of the outdoor quest. Meals — lunch Monday-breakfast Tuesday — equipment and lodging will be provided. The registration deadline is Monday, July 3. Space is limited to 11 boys and 11 girls.

For more information, call the conservation board at 712-295-7200 or visit