The Ottumwa Courier

December 14, 2012

Ottumwa Park Campground move not likely

Parks director hopes improvements can be made to 40-year-old site

CHELSEA DAVIS
Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA — While an idea is floating around to possibly move the campground from Ottumwa Park, the city’s parks director said that’s not likely to happen.

“It was an idea the [Ottumwa Regional] Legacy Foundation had, but at the park board meeting, it sounds like the majority of people there don’t want to move the campground,” said Parks Director Gene Rathje of this week’s Parks Advisory Board meeting.

Instead, he hopes to make improvements to the campground where it stands by paving camping pads and eventually installing sewer dump sites at each campsite.

But that all costs money, and campground improvements Rathje has tried to include in past budget cycles have been cut out.

“I tried last year,” he said. “Their reasoning is that the city uses CIP [Capital Improvements Program] for streets and sewers, which I understand. So I’ll continue applying for grants to improve our park system.”

The campground has been in the park since around 1970, said Wapello County Supervisor Jerry Parker.

“A lot was built with federal grants,” Rathje said. “They built the shower house and most of the original camping spaces in section 1 and 2 with federal money. They paved all of the camping spaces in section 1 and four of the camping spaces in section 2. They only got four in section 2 paved, I think, because they ran out of money.”

The campground is comprised of five sections, totaling nearly 200 camping spaces. When RAGBRAI came to town in 2009, the city was able to create even more spaces at the site with extra hook-up boxes.

In April and May, the campground sees around 25 campers, but by the time the Ottumwa Pro Balloon Races, Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends roll around, the campground is at capacity.

“The space Legacy has been talking about — and this is strictly preliminary — is the southeast corner of Ottumwa Park between the Babe Ruth field and the Boy Scouts cabin,” Rathje said of the idea for a new location. “Off the top of my head, that could cost $400,000, maybe $500,000.”

The campground, where it stands now, would essentially be abandoned, Rathje said, and nothing would be able to be salvaged to transport to a new site.

“Realistically, I think moving the campground is not very likely,” he said. “It will probably stay right where it is, and we’ll make improvements.”

The campground will open for the season on April 1. Those who would like to apply to be campground hosts for the 2013 season may call Rathje at 641-682-8208 or City Attorney/Human Resources Manager Joni Keith at 641-683-0600.