Archery range dedicated to Avenson

(Don Avenson’s two sons, Clay (left) and Eric, proudly stand beside the sign proclaiming that the archery range at Volga River Recreation Area will henceforth be known as the Avenson Archery Range.)




Archery range dedicated to Avenson


By Jerry Wadian

Don Avenson was a former Democratic state legislator from Oelwein who championed conservation and natural resource projects. On Tuesday, July 18, the archery range at the Volga River Recreation Area (VRRA) was dedicated in his memory.

The dedication was only fitting in that the VRRA came into existence primarily through Avenson’s drive and enthusiastic determination to have a recreational area for outdoor enthusiasts in northeast Iowa.

Avenson was elected to the State Legislature in 1972 and became the longest-serving speaker of the House in Iowa history, serving from 1983 to 1990.

After a losing bid for governor in 1990, the Oelwein resident became a lobbyist for a number of organizations, including the Iowa Bowhunters Association.

Echo Valley Archers (EVA) developed the archery range, which is located on Lookout Peak above the horse area. The group did most of the work clearing trails and setting up equipment. The range, a one-mile loop, is open from April through mid-September.

The range will also hosts the Rinehart 100 Aug. 18-20. This is the only Iowa stop on the prestigious nationwide tour. Over the past two years, the Rinehart 100 has drawn over 1200 people to northeast Iowa.

Once the range was completed, EVA donated it to VRRA.

“We wanted to give something back,” explained EVA president Travis Wymer.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) heard of the range through the efforts of park ranger Jeff Hildebrand and District Park Supervisor Scot Michelson.

DNR director Chuck Gipp believed the range should be named after Avenson. Although a Republican, Gipp pushed for the dedication.

“Don was an ardent conservationist, who was at the heart of every natural resource program across the state,” explained Gipp. “He was someone you could work with, and you could always trust his word.”

The dedication was supposed to happen with Avenson present, but he died July 14 in Nebraska while on vacation.

Thus, the mood during the dedication last Tuesday was more bittersweet than first intended, but it was a fitting tribute and a memorial to an area man who made a huge difference across the state. 

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