Wilson Island State Recreation Area will reopen on Dec. 14, for all uses except camping, 20 months after Missouri River floodwaters forced the park to close.
Chris Anunson, state park ranger at Wilson Island, said the park had standing water for three months that damaged nearly all of the park buildings, killed hundreds of trees and left a layer sand and sediment on everything ranging in depth from three inches to eight feet.
“We had to remove all that sediment, clear the roads and demolish nearly all of our buildings from the flood. Luckily, we had enough time before the park was under water to move equipment and office supplies, and pull the furnace, water heater and breakers from the park residence,” he said.
Anunson moved his family to nearby Missouri Valley for a year while the water slowly retreated and the park residence could be fixed. They returned Memorial Day weekend.
Flood cleanup has been expensive. The State of Iowa provided $2 million for the recovery and FEMA provided nearly $1 million to offset the cost for debris removal, including removing trees larger than eight inches in diameter.
Once the cleanup is over, the work will shift to rebuilding the campground and other park buildings.
The DNR will meet with the consultant engineer this week to discuss developing the campground with the goal of opening in 2014.
The plans call for a new shower house in a new location in the campground, changing some sites from electrical to non-electrical and vice-versa, moving campsites to higher ground and having two dump stations. There will also be a new road to access the west campground. The total number of electrical sites will increase and all will have 50 amps service.
But for now, there is a lot of work that remains. An area next to the make shift office is holding 15,000 cubic yards of material taken off the river front. There are more trees to remove and the cleanup continues.
Anunson said Wilson Island campground regulars have been using Lewis and Clark State Park, county parks or parks in Nebraska. The Friends of Wilson Island support group is anxious to get the park reopened and has held work days to assist with the recovery.
Once all the new features are added to the park and campground, it will be hard to recognize.