Campground upgrades coming to Brushy Creek

Today’s campers seek greater amenities

-Messenger photo by Lori Berglund
Park Manager Amber O’Neill points out some of the planned renovations at Brushy Creek to Gene and Linda Timmons. The retired Webster City couple are frequent campers and came out to hear about the plans at an open house this week.

LEHIGH — It’s one of the most versatile state parks in Iowa and it’s about to get a more than $2 million upgrade.

“Brushy Creek State Recreation Area is a very popular destination across the state; there’s lot of opportunities here for fishing, hunting, equestrian riding, mountain bike riding, the firearms range,” said Jacob Schaben, northwest district supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources’ Parks, Forests and Preserves Bureau. “There’s so much to offer and it’s in a fairly central location, which means it’s accessible to a large number of Iowans.”

Schaben was one of several DNR officials on hand earlier this week as the public was invited to an open house at the park’s Prairie Resource Center to hear about plans for a campground renovation slated to begin later this year.

While Brushy Creek is one of the state’s ‘newer’ recreation areas, its three public campgrounds are now showing some age and DNR officials said the project is needed to keep in step with the demands of today’s campers.

“Families appreciate modern amenities, electricity, water hook-ups, and that’s the way they are using state parks,” Schaben said. “Some of the campsites there are under-utilized and we hope to give people more ways to use the area.”

-Messenger photo by Lori Berglund
Jacob Schaben, northwest district supervisor for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’s Parks, Forests and Preserves Bureau, outlines some of the planned enhancements at Brushy Creek campgrounds later this year.

Renovations are planned to each of the three campgrounds, including two equestrian campgrounds and one, non-equestrian campground in the beach area. The total project, including some road improvements, is estimated at $2.2 million, according to Sherry Arntzen, chief of Parks, Forests and Preserves for the DNR.

“The funding source is our Parks Infrastructure Fund, and we are also using some Land and Water Conservation Funds, which is a federal fund, and we can cost-share with that,” Arntzen said.

The north equestrian campground will see perhaps the most work. The planned scope of work includes; electrical upgrades to 50-amp service for 60 campsites, additional gravel for pads and parking areas, gravel roads for non-electric sites, gravel and concrete for ADA parking sites and the playground, as well as a horse wash. New water lines will be installed and sanitary and water hookups upgraded in designated areas.

There will also be new fire rings, grills and picnic tables.

“We’re also adding some visitor area parking,” Schaben said. “Everyone invites friends to visit when they’re camping, and a little more parking is going to be a good thing.”

At the non-equestrian beach campground, a number of sites will receive upgrades and all-new full hookup sites will be built in the cul-de-sac east of the main campground. The host site will be relocated, and a new 40-space concrete parking lot will be located east of the campground.

Design improvements should help campers spread out a little more at both the beach campground and south equestrian campground, according to Schaben.

The south camp currently has a number of non-electric sites that are used only on holidays. Adding more modern services to those areas will hopefully encourage campers to utilize that area more often.

As currently scheduled, campground closures should have minimal impact on most campers. Bids are scheduled to be let in mid-September, with approval from the Iowa Natural Resource Commission expected in mid-October.

“Our construction timeline right now is Nov. 1, 2024, through May 30, 2025,” Schaben said. “But I always plan for the worst-case scenario, depending on weather, the final design and approval. It could go in to early summer, 2025.”

The hope, however, is that the campgrounds would be open for Memorial Day 2025. Time and the weather will be large determining factors in how that plays out.

Brushy Creek is one of the few state campgrounds that does not close for the winter.

“Technically, you can camp here in January,” Schaben said. “There are contractors working in the area who do appreciate having that available.”

Shower and restroom facilities in state parks are closed from Oct. 15 through April 15 each winter, but there are some hardy campers not afraid to rough it.

“This place has a great fishery, so a lot more people are coming to the park,” Arntzen said. “That’s why we recognize the need for these improvements.”

At more than 6,000 acres, Brushy Creek State Recreation Area does indeed have space to spread out and enjoy a variety of activities.

“We just want people to come out and enjoy the area,” Schaben said. “There’s so much to see.”


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today