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Car accident takes life of Hubbard County environmentalist

PARK RAPIDS -- Hours after longtime Hubbard County seasonal resident Sheryl Barta closed up her lake home Monday, her trip south ended tragically when she was the victim of a one car rollover in her home state of Iowa.

The Iowa State Patrol said Barta, 72, lost control of her Nissan Altima on Interstate 35 near Chapin when the southbound vehicle veered into the right hand lane, entered the west side ditch and rolled, landing on its top.

The Patrol believes she fell asleep at the wheel. The accident happened just before 4 p.m. Barta was wearing a seat belt. The family's chocolate lab, Josie, was in the vehicle but was not hurt.

Barta and husband Tom have a cabin on Big Mantrap Lake. Tom, driving the couple's pickup, was ahead of his wife as they headed to their winter home in Ames, but did not learn of the accident until he had arrived home. The couple retired from Iowa State University and lived five months at their lake home.

Sheryl Barta was a passionate environmentalist, active in the Big Mantrap Lake Association and the Coalition of Lakes Association. She helped promote responsible stewardship of the natural environment by lake homeowners and fought the spread of invasive species into area lakes.

The Enterprise recently did a story on Tom Barta's efforts to reforest a tract of land the couple owns near County 91, planting it in native pines.

Sheryl Barta subscribed to the Enterprise all year round just to read the Hubbard County incident reports. She said the incidents kept her in touch with the region, and kept her laughing through the winter.