New Iowa State Campground High and Dry
The new Big Woods Lake Campground near Cedar Falls, Iowa, isn't scheduled to open until Thursday (Oct. 7), but a few campers gave the place an unexpected test run last week, the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier reported.
Mike Hendrickson, the north unit ranger who oversees the campground, said Black Hawk Park closed last Sunday because of heavy rains upstream. The park will officially open Thursday.
"We moved the campers we had here over there," he said. "It was great. We didn't have to send them down the road to Hickory Hills or just say, 'Goodbye.'"
Vern Fish, Black Hawk County Conservation Board director, said the plan for a higher-land campground was first hatched in the '90s when this area battled two major floods.
"It became obvious that Black Hawk Park would be more and more susceptible to these flood events," he said. Black Hawk floods at 9 feet, while the city's official flooding point is 12 feet. "When George Wyth floods out, we have no place to send people but Hickory Hills."
Fish said the 56 full-service sites stayed mostly dry throughout this summer's rainy weeks. And during the 2008 flood, Fish said there was no more than a few inches running over the property. The water closed Black Hawk Park through Labor Day weekend.
Though the nearly $1 million campground sits on city property, it will be managed by the county board. Funding for the project came from the city, county and several grant programs, including Vision Iowa and REAP. The campground also includes a year-round cabin paid for with a Black Hawk County Gaming Association grant. A tent camping area also has been carved out.
Mark Ripplinger, the city parks director, said the city was interested in showcasing that area of the community and a dry campground just off a lake and the trail system was the perfect way to do it.
"To bring campers into this area is a bonus for everybody," he said.
All but 10% of the revenue will go to the county for operation costs. The remaining money will be set aside for future repairs and capital improvements.
Hendrickson said it feels good to finally have all the pieces in place after about four years of work.
"It was neat to swing in that direction and see campers sitting there," he said. "For so long it's just been piles of dirt. We don't have nice green grass yet, but it is seeded and will be ready to go full speed ahead come spring.
The new campground is located in the northeast portion of Iowa, approximately 100 miles northeast of Des Moines.