One eastern Iowa state park closed for months after wind storm damage last year fully reopened just in time for the 4th of July. But it was apparent holiday campers didn’t get the word in time to make plans, KCRG-TV, Cedar Rapids, reported.
Union Grove State Park northwest of Tama/Toledo saw the reopening of the park’s campground June 29 following a $400,000 renovation project. The park, one of the smaller ones in Iowa’s state park system, now features a new shower house and bathrooms as well as expanded campsites. A new modern family cabin overlooking the lake opened last March. But the one thing missing on the holiday was anyone using those brand new facilities. Wednesday afternoon, just one of 25 available spaces was reserved.
Park ranger Roger Thompson admitted it’s been a trying year for the park, which features a 110-acre lake with a swimming beach as well as the usual picnicking, hiking, and fishing opportunities.
Last July 11, winds uprooted nearly 300 mature trees on park grounds. The state closed access to the park until mid-September of 2011 for the cleanup. Thompson said that meant putting off scheduled work on the campground which finally opened more than a year behind schedule.
“It’s almost easier without the campground (to run a park) but we need the campground to feel like a full-service park,” Thompson said.
Thompson said one explanation for few campers during a normally busy holiday period is the mid-season reopening. Because Union Grove’s campground wasn’t available at the start of the camping season, it’s not listed on the state’s electronic campground reservation system. Those who want space at the newly reopened Union Grove State Park campground can either come by on a first come, first served basis or call the park office at (641) 473-2556.
The problem tripped up Billy Jones and some other family members who were fishing at Union Grove Lake on Wednesday. Jones said he and some relatives wanted to spend a few days with their RV at a state park for the holiday. But they called seven state parks and found no vacancies. They ended up going to Union Grove for a day of fishing not realizing the campground 100 yards away was practically empty.
“We called all over and they said you had to reserve weeks, a couple of weeks, ahead of time,” Jones said.
Ranger Thompson said attendance at Union Grove dropped about 40 percent in the past year due to the cleanup and campground remaining closed. But he’s confident crowds will return once more people learn everything is available again.
Melanie Mendoza, a Marshalltown resident, said a lot of park users probably don’t know camping is back. And she agreed people will come to the park as soon as they realize it’s all open again.
“They might think part of it’s still closed, but at least the beach part is still open. A couple of weeks ago it was just packed over here,” she said.