Mt Pleasant News
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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 20, 2018

Family fun day kicks off fundraising campaign for Geode State Park

Friends of Geode State Park plan to restore concession stand
Jun 26, 2018
Photo by: John Butters Dave Smith, chairperson for the Friends of Geode State Park, stands in front of the concession stand his group is planning to renovate. The group held its first fundraising event this past weekend.

By John Butters, Mt. Pleasant News

 

The Friends of Geode State Park gathered Saturday for a fundraiser that will help them restore a concession stand that once provided a focal point for visitors to the park’s beach.

Events for the family fun day at Geode State Park included a fun run, activities for children and a live auction.

Dave Smith, chairperson for the group, said the event serves as the beginning of their efforts to raise the $135,000 necessary to bring the building back into service.

Standing in front of the building that now fronts a dry lakebed, Smith said the stonework at the concession stand is structurally stable, but that an internal restoration is needed. “The quality of the work is amazing. This is a 50-year-old building and it is as strong as it was when built. It is in excellent condition,” he said. “We are working with the park to bring the concessions back. They will maintain the exterior of the stand and we would be responsible for the interior.”

Lake Geode, located in Henry and Des Moines counties, is a 174-acre lake encompassed by a 1,640-acre state park. The entire Lake Geode Watershed consists of approximately 10,327 acres. The park lake has been drained for a complete restoration by the state, due to continuing water quality issues. The state will allow the lake to refill in 2019.

The campgrounds are currently closed and will remain so through 2018. The campgrounds are also being improved and are scheduled to reopen in 2019. The picnic shelters and hiking trails remain open for park visitors.

Smith said improvements to the lake and campgrounds would return the park to its former place as one of Iowa’s premier parks. “In the 1970s, this was the place to be. Teenagers would come to the park in the summer and spend the day at the beach. It was wall-to-wall people,” said Smith. “You couldn’t find a parking spot.”

The Friends’ plans include not only selling concessions, but also renting non-motorized boats such as canoes and kayaks. The group has studied similar agreements between Iowa’s parks and volunteer organizations, and Smith feels confident that the Friends of Geode can successfully manage the stand after it is reopened. The group attained its not-for-profit status in 2017, allowing it to offer tax deductions for donations to the renovation work.

At completion, the stand will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act so it can provide ease of access to all park visitors. Smith does not doubt that the park will once again draw large crowds.

“With renovations being made to the campground and improvements to the lake, it is a great time to rebuild the concession stand. It will be a good addition to the park,” he said. “The park has been a big part of my life and a lot of other people’s lives. Many people have great memories of the times they spent at the park.”

Smith said the strong turnout for the Saturday family fun day was an indication of the public’s interest in the project. “We had 80 runners come out for the fun run. It’s a great course and very challenging,” he said. “They’ll come back for another run.”

Adrian Silva, who volunteered to provide catering for the day, was pleased with the event. “It’s pretty good. We have a nice turnout. I’m glad to be a part of it all,” he said.

With games for the children and a live auction, Saturday’s event got the Friends off to a great start, he said.

Smith’s personal connection to the park goes back to his grandfather, Ed Smith, who was a development chairperson for the group that began acquiring land in 1937. As land was acquired, the Civilian Conservation Corps built roads and constructed a dam. In 1951, the park hosted a dedication ceremony.

Just as Smith has enjoyed the park, he now wants to preserve it for the next generation.

“This park has been a benefit to all of us here. The next generation will benefit as well from our efforts,” he said. “We are passing it along to the future generations.”

Smith said the Friends are seeking more workers in addition to contributions, “There is a lot of work to be done. We could use more help. As far as contributions, if everyone would just donate $5, we would likely meet our goal easily,” Smith said.

The Friends have established an informational website at friendsofgeode.org.

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