Press Release  9/12/22

Johnson County Conservation Board announces acquisition of the Two Horse Farm


The Johnson County Conservation Board (JCCB) has acquired 83 acres in north central Johnson County.  The property, known locally as the Two Horse Farm, was acquired through a donation and purchase agreement through the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and Erin and Brian Melloy, former owners of the property.  The property is located at 2257 Sugar Bottom Road NE, Solon and is adjacent on two sides to the US Army Corps of Engineers – Coralville Lake Project.  The property was acquired through a generous donation from the Melloy’s, combined with funds from the State of Iowa REAP Grant Program and the Johnson County Conservation Bond fund.

This 83-acre tract is covered by 64 acres of forest, 15.5 acres of reconstructed prairie, and a 3.5-acre farmstead. The site includes 364 species of plants including at least 14 rare and notable species. Some of the woodlands are former high-quality oak-hickory savannas or open woodlands that have never been cropped and are worthy of additional restoration efforts.

In addition to their ecological importance, the woodlands and prairies invite human exploration and enjoyment. The view from the land’s high point provides a spectacular view of the Iowa River valley and Coralville Lake. Conversely, this land preserves the prairie-woodland viewshed seen from Coralville Lake or Sugar Bottom Recreation Area trails.  

This project also includes an additional 7 acres of prairie that the Melloy family has gifted to the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska. The 7 acres of prairie are embedded within the boundaries of this project and include the high knob of land overlooking the Iowa River valley and Coralville Lake. This donation to the Iowa Tribe is historic in terms of providing a piece of land through which the Ioway people can reconnect, both physically and spiritually, to their ancestral homeland. Currently, the Iowa Tribe has no land holdings in the state of Iowa. The partnership with the Ioway people will provide outstanding educational opportunities for park visitors to relate to the earth and to Native American cultural values.

The farmstead, which is in excellent condition, invites visitors to consider Iowa farm life a century ago. Opportunities for immersion in such sites are rapidly disappearing across Iowa. The beautifully preserved and restored 1890s-era farmhouse is surrounded by English gardens with many native plant species. The original farmhouse will provide critically needed office space for JCC educators and management staff working here and at Cangleska Wakan. The newer, 1992 addition will be rented to families or organized groups for retreats and week-long visits.

The nearby good-sized barn, constructed in 1913 and also in excellent condition, has received an Award of Distinction from the Iowa Barn Foundation. This barn, which is used by the wildlife-rescue non-profit organization RARE, provides flight pens for rehabilitating large birds of prey; these and several permanently injured birds are housed in a circular open-air grain-bin-sized pen at the site.

JCC envisions this land being used for quiet explorations by families or small groups through activities such as hiking, picnicking, cross-country skiing, environmental education, and nature appreciation (e.g. bird watching, wildflower identification, mushroom collection). The rental of the house will provide similar opportunities for additional users.

It may take 1-2 years to get the property fully adapted to public use.  This will include signage, a new parking area and latrine or restroom facility.  For more information about the site please contact officials with Johnson County Conservation at 319-645-2315 or email [email protected]