As COVID-19 regulations and concerns shut down a majority of summer activities and events in 2020, camping at Green Valley State Park increased 26% with 33,793 guest visiting the park in 2020. With visits to Green Valley campground expected to increase yet again, those interested in reservations are encouraged to place reservations now.
Thursday, April 1, marked the opening of camp season at Green Valley with 20 of its 101 campsites reserved. Park technician Daniel Stull said that is a pretty good opening weekend considering school is not on break and summer has yet to officially begin.
In 2020, bathrooms and public facilities, such as playgrounds, were ordered by Gov. Kim Reynolds to close, but campers flocked to Green Valley.
“I think they just realized, ‘Hey, I can’t travel too far. I can’t go to Des Moines, I can’t go to Omaha, can’t go to Kansas City, I can’t go to California or even Florida, so we’re going to stay close to home and do a staycation sort of thing,” said Hyde.
Hyde said June 2020 was full and there wasn’t a single weekend with availability, even for tent camping.
“That’s like a once a year holiday, like Memorial Day,” said Stull.”
At Green Valley, a reservation is not needed to visit the park and enjoy its amenities. Green Valley State Park is not only for camping, but features hiking trails, a 10 mile paved biking trail which connects to McKinley Park. The 390-acre lake is also popular for boating and fishing. This year, more than 90 fishing tournaments are slated to take place on Union County’s lakes.
“Bike trails bring in a ton of people from the community because they are able to come to camp and they are able to ride their bike to town,” said Hyde. “A lot of the opportunities are changing. Before you were coming here to camp and maybe swim at the beach if the water quality is good.”
“Our beach got used more in 2020 because everything else was closed and we had decent water quality, so there was over a 100 people at our beach when normally we have maybe five to 10,” said Stull.
Stull said water quality is tested each Tuesday and park officials are notified by Friday morning if beaches are open for swimming.
Showers at Green Valley and the park’s three cabins will open April 15. The park will close nearly 11 days early on Oct. 4 this year as the park will have additional renovations, such as its roadways repaved or repaired.
“We’re hoping to have our Trick o’ Treat weekend before it closes down,” said Stull.
Workshops for campers and naturalists typically held at Green Valley are currently on pause until further guidance is released from state officials, but park officials expect to continue hosting group hikes and kayaking events that allow for social distancing.
“We will do as much as we are permitted to,” said Stull.
For more information, visit Friends of Green Valley State Park on Facebook or iowadnr.gov. Reservations can be found on reserveamerica.com.