Eric Anderson, Emmet County Conservation Board director, said, "April 3, seasonal personnel will be back, weather permitting."
The Foundation board is also preparing for its banquet, March 18 at the Elks Club. Banquet tickets are $25, with doors opening at 5:30, dinner at 6 p.m., and program and auction beginning at 7 p.m. Anderson reported snow removal went well this year. As Anderson is usually the first person in to the Emmet County Nature Center offices, he removes snow in the surrounding county park areas without extra compensation.
Naturalist Gunnar Johnson said the county has hired Chase Bonner as junior naturalist for the summer. Among Bonner's duties will be hosting fishing clinics, canoe and kayak excursions, nature hikes, and offer other programming on a regular schedule to those camping at the county parks, and to the public.
Photo by Amy H. Peterson
Johnson said, "These activities, if not free, will be extremely affordable, with any fees covering our costs for materials."
Bonner is completing his credential to coach for the archery program.
"There are so many activities for Iowa Lakes students, campers, and the public."
Johnson has also updated the Conservation Board webpage. Information is easier to find and the site has a cleaner look, Johnson reported.
Anderson said, "One buzzsaw that's out there is the issue of raising camping fees." Members of the public have believed camping fees are going up.
"Of all the sites in the area on the DNR website, ours are very reasonable. If you look at Gull Point, for example, you'll see our prices are reasonable."
Board member Dave Enerson said, "The County actually subsidizes their camping. I don't know how it's different from other county departments supporting their activities."
Emmet County supervisor John Pluth said, "It could cost more money to raise our fees in the big picture."
Anderson also said the county parks had maybe a dozen tent campers in the 2016 season.
"No more than four at a time," Johnson said.
A barrier to tent camping is the weight and effort of bringing in several days worth of food, Anderson said.
Some discussion has occurred about a food truck traveling through the campgrounds so tent campers and others could purchase food staples during their stay.
"We have small groups of campers," Anderson said.
County residents have also pointed out to Anderson that other campgrounds have free Wi-Fi and cable TV available to campers.
"I admit I will drag my feet on this. I want young kids running up the trail, in the mud, exploring the trails. I don't like to see young kids sitting in the camper with the air conditioning on, playing on their phones."
Johnson reported on the new pond at Wolden campground. "It's going to be a 1.5 acre pond on the west green space at Wolden, west of the volleyball courts."
The conservation board will also be accepting delivery of new playground equipment purchased with local option sales tax (LOST) funds in early April.
LOST funds have also gone toward an accessible pier. The fishing area will have a shelter house for shade. Fishing as always will be catch/release. The area will also have an archery range, Johnson said.
Tickets for the banquet were moving quickly, Enerson said.
2017 camping fees for county parks, are:
Wolden Rec Area on High Lake, Wallingford: $20/night or $120/week; $18/night or $108/night seniors age 65+.
Tuttle Lake Recreation area , two miles north of Dolliver: $20/night or $120/week; $18/night or $108/week seniors age 65+, $10/night or $60/week primitive sites.
Iowa Lake Wildlife Area, six miles north of Armstrong: $10/night or $60/week primitive camping.