Supervisors approve $500,000 for campground project

Aug. 23—OTTUMWA — The Wapello County Board of Supervisors approved spending $500,000 as a contribution to assist in the funding for a massive campground project at the Pioneer Ridge Nature Area.

The total cost of the project is just over $1.2 million, and the county's allotment comes from the American Rescue Plan Act. However, conservation director Richard Tebbs said other grant opportunities also could be available.

The project will fairly immense, and revenue is expected to pick up when it is completed. Some of the highlights to the project:

— Increasing the number of campground sites from nine to approximately 25.

— Building a four-stall shower house in a central location. The current shower house is near the red hay barn and creates conflicts for big events, Tebbs said.

— New septic systems and upgrading of electrical boxes

— A new playground, dump station and the ability to take online reservations.

"There's going to be a lot of upgrades that people are used to with modern parks," he said. "There will be more pull-through campsites, which people like, instead of just back-in sites.

"It'll just draw more people, and with the online reservations, if people are traveling through the county and need to stop for three nights, they can go online and make a reservation."

Once the project is completed, fees would likely double from the current $12 per night to $25. Tebbs estimated a larger campground would bring in about $60,000 in new revenue, without having to get rid of trees. Most of the ground improvement would be removing dirt, he said.

Supervisor Brian Morgan has long said the money the county spends through ARPA should have a return-on-investment, and he believes this will.

"This is something that will make money after it is built," he said. "We want this money to go to projects, and this is one where we'll see the dollars coming in. It's going to pay for itself; it's an investment, but it's going to make money."

The project likely won't be done in one year; the playground may be the last thing to be completed, and the Wellmark grant could be available for that piece, Tebbs said. The shower house also may not be completed immediately.

"Probably the main point I would try to get done in one year is, if we tear everything up, get the septic and the water lines and electric lines. I would completely shut down the campground for a period of time while excavation was going on," he said.

In other business:

—Morgan said Citizens Mutual Telephone of Bloomfield, which is performing the broadband internet improvements in Davis and Wapello counties, will "tentatively" join the supervisors' meeting next week.

The county agreed to contribute $1.3 million to the project, and so far has paid out $700,000.

"It's progressing," supervisor Jerry Parker said. "But the people really don't know how it's progressing."

Tebbs wondered if it was going past Pioneer Ridge.

"It's already there," supervisor Wayne Huit said.

— Chad Drury can be reached at cdrury@ottumwacourier.com, and on Twitter @ChadDrury