Park Environmental Study

In 2017, the City of Pella’s Community Services Board questioned the environmental impact of adding new activities to the park. They pointed out the need to consider waterways, investigate whether or not the park is home to any endangered species, and determine whether new activities necessitated the removal of trees. In collaboration with the City of Pella, the Friends of Big Rock Park will engage Central College scientific experts who will work with a diverse group of local students and citizens to complete a multi-year, comprehensive environmental study of the park. They will identify and inventory plants, butterflies, bees, birds, mammals, fungi, reptiles, and amphibians, giving particular attention to populations that are of special concern, threatened, or endangered.

To survey the park effectively, researchers will conduct surveys over a two-year period beginning in the spring of 2021. This offers the best opportunity to complete a reliable survey, controlling for year-to-year variation (e.g., drought). In addition, this two-year window allows time for significant community engagement and development of educational programs for the spring, summer, and fall of 2022, building on the prior year’s research.

Year 1

Residents will benefit by opportunities to work and learn alongside experts. The team will organize “citizen scientists” to do walking surveys (e.g., groups of birdwatchers) and help develop digital tools (e.g., a website and smartphone apps). Future visitors will be able to record their observations throughout the year, thus building an inventory of the Park’s living species.

  • Dr. Paulina Mena and student Lauren Wall completed a summer research project on "Native Bee Survey in Big Rock Park".

  • As you wander the paths of Big Rock Park and see a plant or animal and if you wish to participate in the environmental study, click on this link to open up the site survey data collection page         


  • Or, click to this QR-code with your smart phone.

Year 2

During year two of the project, the Friends expect to provide environmental education opportunities for students throughout Marion county.  This could include field trips and presentations during the school year, summer programs similar to science teacher Dick Vander Laan’s Big Rock Park camps from many years ago, sustainability day camps hosted recently by Central College and, organized removal of invasive species including garlic mustard and bush honeysuckle.