The Dubuque County Board of Supervisors approved property acquisitions and a zoning change to pave the way for future projects.

These actions begin the realization of several years of planning for the Dubuque County Conservation Department and the Trappistine sisters of Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey, respectively.

The supervisors voted unanimously on Monday to acquire three adjoining one-acre parcels to Lytle Creek as means of improving one of the county’s newest parks — Bowstring Wildlife Management Area, near Bernard.

“Right now, there is only limited access to Bowstring,” said Brian Preston, Dubuque County Conservation executive director. “We’re proposing to acquire these to create a parking area and access to Lytle Creek — not only for kayaking, but also to put in a creek crossing. The bowstring bridge is reaching the end of its usefulness.”

Dubuque County purchased the 89-acre property in 2018 after being called to investigate Washington Mill Bridge, a bowstring-style bridge — which is the only way for the public to approach the area and the namesake of the area. The bowstring bridge is very rare in the area, especially at its small size. But it is as antique as it is unique and not really appropriate for crossing by the equipment needed to maintain the park itself.

“We’re willing to help out doing whatever grading is needed to close that bowstring bridge,” said County Engineer Anthony Bardgett. “It is very much deteriorated. And it’s a national historic bridge, so we can’t tear it down. So, we want to preserve it the way it is now before we see a failure on that bridge.”

Preston said it had been a complicated process finding a route to make the parking, crossing and kayak launch work.

“The terrain is really difficult there,” he said. “All those property corners come together at the place we need. But, it is one of the most scenic streams we have in the entire county.”

The supervisors also unanimously voted to rezone the 62 acres of land occupied by the Trappist nuns, their abbey, candy operation and other lodgings, from single-family residential to a planned complex. This is a correction several years in the making and will allow the sisters to make changes to their property and operations to be more in keeping with their vocation.

The rezoning is designed to make it easier for the sisters to move their gift shop to a recently purchased home at the entrance to the property, rather than back among the residential areas.

“They’re trying to move some of this forward, because they are sequestering nuns,” said County Zoning Officer Tammy Henry. “They’re supposed to not really have all this activity in their living area.”

Dave Schneider, of Schneider Land Surveying, has helmed the project for the sisters and represented them Monday. He said this zoning was also simply more accurate for the property.

“There are living areas. There’s a church. There’s a cemetery. There’s places they use for their retreats. There’s a retail/gift center,” he said. “This has already been used in this way.”

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