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Green Valley State Park: a year in review

Alan Carr, Green Valley State Park ranger, updates the public on aspects of the park, including visitation numbers and plans for the future, during a public meeting Tuesday at the park office.
Alan Carr, Green Valley State Park ranger, updates the public on aspects of the park, including visitation numbers and plans for the future, during a public meeting Tuesday at the park office.

Green Valley State Park saw visitation in the park drop more than 7 percent and revenue also dropped nearly 7 percent during the 2018 season said Daniel Stull, park manager, at a Green Valley State Park annual meeting Tuesday.

Visitation decline

Stull said, weather was the most likely reason for the decline in usage.

“We can’t really do much about that. Our guest days were down. Our campground revenue was down. If you have less people camping, you’re going to have less revenue.”

Use of the park’s cabins increased by 21.2 percent. Cabin rentals are normally available from April 15 to Oct. 15 through Reserve America, the company that runs the park’s reservation system, but this year, Stull said, they were able to negotiate with the company to keep the cabins open an additional 30 days, which could account for the increased usage.

People from across the United States and two provinces in Canada passed through Creston to visit Green Valley State Park, with 30 percent of them from Union County.

Park Ranger Alan Carr said visitation to all of Iowa’s state parks was down from more than 15 million in 2017 to just over 12 million in 2018.

“One of the reasons that the whole state’s off is because we had four campgrounds shut down for renovations this year,” said Carr. “Those parks are going to jump right back in next year and people are going to come and use those.”

Carr said improved facilities help attract more visitors.

Why Green Valley?

During the meeting, Carr also gave a brief history of Green Valley State Park and talked about why people choose to visit there.

Many of Iowa’s state parks are built to set aside certain natural and aesthetic qualities, such as a land or water feature or something related to the state’s cultural history.

“We (Green Valley) are not a park that is built around a special or unique ecological feature,” said Carr. “Back in 1947, a special legislative appropriation of $2.7 million was set up to build some artificial lakes, and most of them are right here in southwest Iowa. There was an emphasis then to get more parks closer to people, so people have a park within their neighborhood.”

Recreation

Green Valley State Park encompasses more than 1,100 acres, 390 acres of which is the actual lake, and offers opportunities for a wide variety of outdoor recreation.

“Fishing is hugely popular,” said Carr. “We have 12 miles of shoreline, six jetties, three silt dams, a couple of ADA fishing piers. It’s kind of unique to have those large piers that everyone can fish off of. We have some of the lake that we keep open for 24-hour fishing. State parks, as a rule, will close at 10:30 at night, but we do have a section of lake open for 24-hour fishing. We have four boat ramps. We have water skiing too, which is kind of unusual (for a man made lake).”

The park also has a wide variety of game available for hunting and Iowa Department of Natural Resources depredation biologist Andy Kellner updated the public on the annual “muzzle loaders only” hunt the park hosts each year.

The number of deer taken during the hunt has steadily declined over the years, meaning the hunt is doing what it was meant to do — help control the deer population in the park. When the hunts first began, the park was selling 50 tags and filling almost all of them. Around five years ago, the decision was made to drop the number of available tags to 25 and most of those tags were being filled as well.

This year, the park sold 19 tags and filled 12, the lowest number of harvested deer since the hunt began.

Plans for 2019 and beyond

“We’ve enjoyed a lot of improvements over the last 10 years,” said Carr. “A lot of dollars were spent here, and people have really responded to it. It’s really been a good thing to see. The trail gets tons of use. Our campground is busy.”

The park doesn’t have any major projects planned, added Carr, only basic maintenance projects to prepare for the 100 year anniversary of Iowa’s state parks which will take place in 2020.

The water quality of Green Valley Lake has been a problem with the algae levels remaining high long into the summer months. Carr said the park will partner with the University of Iowa to do an intensive study of the water quality in the park to figure out why and come up with possible solutions

Park staff also intends to add additional catfish stock to the lake and will continue working with High Lakes Outdoor Alliance to improve and increase the walleye population.

Kellner plans on adding Green Valley State Park to the DNR’s aerial surveys in 2019 for a more accurate picture of the deer population in the park, which might lead to changes for the muzzle loader hunt.

“Parks have a big role in people’s lives,” said Carr. “They promote stewardship for land. They provide some health and wellness benefits. It helps with tourism. It contributes to the economy.”

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