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Tragedy struck the Little Sioux Scout Ranch 14 years ago; now, efforts are underway to preserve it

Posted at 7:04 PM, Aug 08, 2022

LITTLE SIOUX, Iowa (KMTV) — It's been more than a decade since the tragic deaths of four boys by a tornado at Little Sioux Scout Ranch but emotions remain raw.

"When that incident happened, I was working at Union Pacific. One of my colleagues there lost his son. I remember very vividly the impact that had on him and his family," Iowa West Foundation President & CEO Brenda Mainwaring said.

Mainwaring is determined to protect the property. There's also a memorial for the four boys at the ranch. The Foundation is giving a $500,000 grant to the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation to purchase and preserve Little Sioux Scout Ranch as Loess Hills State Forest.

"If a private entity had gone in and purchased it, it never would have been accessible to the families or to the other folks that want to pay their respects. This allows the community as a whole, it even broadens the ability for people to pay their respects and honor the boys who were killed there," Mainwaring said.

The Loess Hills are a special landscape. There are only two places in the world where there's loess, a special soil, that's 150 ft. deep or deeper.

"One is the western fringe of Iowa. There's seven counties going from Akron, Iowa all the way to the Missouri border. The other is the Yellow River of China. It's on the eastern banks of the big river, ours is the Missouri River," Kody Wohlers with the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation said.

Here's the vision: adding Little Sioux Scout Ranch to Loess Hills State Forest will give the public access to 6,000 wilderness acres but it also brings special meaning to those behind the project.

"It's kind of personal to know somebody who I worked with. This is meaningful to him, too and all the other families who were affected by that tragedy," Mainwaring said.

The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation is aiming to raise $2 million by the end of the year for Little Sioux Scout Ranch.

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