Hagie Award Winner 2012: Bob and Mary Lou Gunderson
Over 20 years ago, Bob and Mary Lou first made preserving Iowa’s natural beauty their lives’ passion.
The couple has committed countless hours to conservation efforts across Iowa with much of their work benefiting Hardin County and its surrounding communities. They were founders of the Iowa River Greenbelt Resource Trust in 1987 and have been actively involved in many other projects, making them worthy recipients of the Lawrence and Eula Hagie Heritage Award.
The Hagie Heritage Award is presented annually to an individual who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to conservation and improvement of Iowa’s natural environment while encouraging others to do the same.
Bob and Mary Lou were nominated by John Schuller, a board member of the Iowa River Greenbelt Resource Trust.
During their time in Iowa, the Gunderson’s were actively involved a variety of conservation efforts. Now that they are retired to Tucson, Arizona, not much has changed.
“The Gundersons have not only been incredible supporters of our natural resources through their time and financial support, but they have been instrumental in promoting that mentality to those around them,” wrote John Schuller.
Two people with an eye for potential and a motivation to see it reached, Bob and Mary Lou have spearheaded a variety of conservation efforts.
During the early years of the IRGRT, Mary Lou focused her efforts on keeping the route of the new Highway 20 out of the heart of the Greenbelt. She worked closely with INHF and modeled a program after Cedar Valley Lakes so that the highway had the least amount of impact possible through the Iowa River Greenbelt.
Other examples of the Gundersons’ outstanding impact include community improvement projects like the Alden portage, Steamboat Rock portage, Calkin’s Nature Center, Hardin County Regional Trail, Iowa River Greenbelt water trail, environmental education day camps for kids and reintroduction of trumpeter swans at Pine Lake State Park. They also fundraised for reforestation at Pine Lake State Park; helped with the acquisition and development of a walking trail in Hardin County, connecting two county parks and donated land to INHF with matching grants to protect additional land in Eldora.
In addition, the Gunderson’s established the Gunderson Family Fund that helps provide funding for the Eldora Trail (now named the Gunderson Trail), Bates Park trail, tree planting at Pine Lake and prairie planting along the Greenbelt.
As John Schuller wrote in his nomination letter “the Gunderson’s are truly ‘Champions of the Cause.’”