“This park has been a big part of my life for a long time,” said Andy Butler. “I’ve been around this area all my life.”
Butler grew up on a farm about six miles north of Dow City. He graduated from Boyer Valley High School in 1998.
On July 17 he was hired to be the new park ranger for Nelson Park.
Butler’s route to the park started when he went to electrician school after high school. That led to 17 years with Western Iowa Power Cooperative (WIPCO).
He worked in maintenance for New Cooperative and then with Western Iowa Wireless after that.
Butler said his electrical, plumbing and heating and general maintenance knowledge are why he got the job.
He and his wife, Kalin, wanted to move away from the heavy traffic where they lived on the Kenwood Highway.
They have a daughter, Ali, who is six, and a son, Ashton, who is going to be 5.
The park ranger position comes with a house at the park.
“The environment itself – that’s what I really wanted my kids to have,” Butler said.
“They love it here. From the get-go my wife was all about it and I’m all about it.”
He said his parents have been very supportive of his family.
Butler manages two employees at the park: Nick Steinkuehler, park tech, and Tyler Androy, who is a summer employee.
Part of his job is keeping the others busy – but they share the duties.
“We all take turns mowing and trimming,” he said.
He likes the aspect of his job that is about helping people, he said.
Campers at the park come first.
The first job of the day is to take care of the bathrooms and deal with any problems the campers may have with the facilities.
As Nelson Park ranger, he’s also in charge of mowing and taking care of weeds at the Dow House in Dow City.
Butler said he’s had many surprises in the first few weeks of his job – but nothing that was too serious.
He’s spent a lot of time removing honeysuckle vines, starting with a mass of them at the entrance to the park.
“They’ve just exploded out here,” Butler said. “They’ve taken over a lot of places where they never were before.”
Honeysuckle vines appear in many parts of Nelson Park, but he plans to keep after it.
Butler’s other big task has been to open up some of the trails that became overgrown while the park staff was shorthanded.
“That’s part of the reason there is a park here,” he said. “There are trails and nobody was using them.”
He strapped a chainsaw to a riding mower and worked his way down one of the trails.
“Anything that was across the trail, I cut it down,” Butler said. “I think it took me a good portion of the day.”
He had to use a skidloader to open up another overgrown trail.
Steinkuehler and Androy have also been working on the trails.
Butler has ideas about where some new trails could be added to the park, as well.
One of the surprises of his first month was reaching a small bridge well back in the park as he cleared an area.
“I didn’t even know there was a bridge back there,” he said.
The bridge needs some work – and that’s another thing on his list.
“One of the reasons I like it out here is I like to fix stuff and I like to make it look good,” Butler said.
Butler wants everyone to know that the trails are open again.
Interested individuals may stop by the Nelson Park Ranger Office near the park entrance for directions.