IOWA DERECHO 2020

State parks damaged in derecho still closed, and it's not clear when they will reopen

Wapsipinicon and Palisades-Kepler completely closed, while Pleasant Creek and Lake Macbride partially closed

The road leading to the beach and boat ramp is blocked at Lake Macbride State Park in Solon on Saturday, Aug. 22, 2020.
The road leading to the beach and boat ramp is blocked at Lake Macbride State Park in Solon on Saturday, Aug. 22, 2020. Four state parks in east central Iowa remain closed as park employees work to clear damaged trees and debris caused by the derecho that hit the area on Aug. 10, 2020. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Nearly three weeks after the derecho, it’s unclear when four state parks impacted by the storm will fully reopen.

Wapsipinicon and Palisades-Kepler state parks remain closed to the public. Pleasant Creek State Recreation Area is closed to the public with the exception of the northwest and southwest boat ramps, according to the park’s website. As of Aug. 26, the north and south campgrounds, day-use lodge and boat ramp to the Coralville Lake remained closed at Lake Macbride State Park, but the rest of the park reopened.

Iowa Department of Natural Resources spokesman Alex Murphy said he doesn’t know how long the parks will remain closed.

“I think right now they’re closed through the end of the month,” Murphy said. “I don’t know anything beyond that at this point. I don’t know if they’ll extend that or they’ll be open Monday.”

Sean Steele, 44, the volunteer host at Lake Macbride, has been staying at the park all summer — including immediately after the Aug. 10 derecho — and is hopeful campers could soon return.

“I’m thinking maybe the campground will open at the end of the month,” he said.

Steele said he’s spoken with park rangers and has been told an arborist needs to come out and examine tree damage. Steele suspects that some trees will need to be pruned or removed before campers can come back, but admits he doesn’t know for certain.

“I’ve been asking them, ‘When do you need me to start doing my duties again?’” he said. “I have not been given an actual date.”

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In the weeks following the derecho, Steele said he’s been living at the park and essentially acting as an extra set of eyes and ears — duties he performed when campgrounds were temporarily closed earlier this year, as well. Steele said park officials have asked him to let them know if he sees anyone in the park doing anything they shouldn’t be.

A sign is posted at the entrance to the 5-mile multiuse trail that goes from the park to Solon, but Steele said “people are still using it all the time.”

The rest of the park has been cleaned of debris and power was back a week after the storm, Steele said. He’s eager for visitors to return, as well.

“I’m just looking forward to things getting back to normal out here,” he said.

Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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