Eastern Iowa Campgrounds Already Busy
F.W. Kent Park in Oxford, Iowa, has just about everything you need for a wilderness getaway: woods, water, camping and — wait for it — a wireless Internet connection.
Wireless Internet is in demand at campgrounds. That’s why connectivity is a key part of a three-year $500,000 update to the 86 campsites at Kent Park, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported.
“It was interesting to me what a popular feature this is now in campgrounds,” said Harry Graves, director of the Johnson County Conservation Board, which manages Kent Park along with the Hills and River Junction accesses.
“People want to be connected all the time. In my mind — I’ve camped in the rough — the whole idea originally was to get out of the way of civilization and the distractions of it. But it’s almost like a connection to their body. This has become not unlike electricity that people expect to see in a public area. It is here, and we are meeting the need. We always try to be proactive and on the cutting edge,” Graves said.
As warm weather rolls in, Kent Park is one of several destinations locally to pitch a tent or park an RV for a little R&R in the woods. And with gas prices hovering near $4 a gallon, more people are staying close to home for getaways, Graves said.
The Kent Park campsites, including both tent and camper sites for $10 to $15 a night, are in the second year of renovations that will upgrade electrical capacity and install wireless throughout the grounds. That will complement the fishing ponds, wetlands trails, a beach that opens Memorial Day week and a prairie interpretive center.
“You can come to Kent Park, camp economically and be clean, too. You can’t beat that. We think this will be a banner year for camping because of these new features and amenities, and plus with fuel prices, we’re seeing more and more folks seeking recreation opportunities closer to home. At Kent Park, you have the opportunity to do anything,” he said.
Kent Park campgrounds opened April 29. Several other campgrounds are up and running, too.
Coralville Dam Complex Camping opened for the early season April 15, and in full May 1. Many of its 500 sites, which cost $12 to $22 a night, are already in use, said John Castle, operations manager at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the dam and campgrounds. Campers will find a new play structure for kids this year, Castle said.
While flooding has caused problems in past years, it hasn’t been an issue so far, Castle said.
“There’s no effect. The lakes came up a bit when we held back water from flowing into the Mississippi (River), but it wasn’t enough to affect any of our campsites. This year, so far, it’s not an issue,” he said.
John Kay, owner of Scales Pointe Campground, formerly known as Jolly Roger Campground, said people should call one month out to make reservations for his 91 campsites, which cost $28 to $30 a night. The campground sits on Coralville Lake and has a full restaurant and bar and a marina, Kay said.
On Wednesday, Kay said 70 of the sites were already occupied.
The University of Iowa’s Macbride Nature Recreation Area has 13 tent sites, which cost $10 to $20 a night, in the Wolf and Fox campgrounds, which are open for the season.
“Despite the wet spring, our campsites are in good condition and will improve as the summer moves on,” said Rob DuBay of UI Recreational Services.