County to apply for trails grant next year

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

The effort to get a Next Level Trails grant from the state for trails in the Dubois County Park will have to wait until next year.

Instead, the focus on the first round of improvements in the park will be adding RV campsites and a restroom on the east end of the park.

The park board was looking at trying to get a Next Level Trails grant from the state this year to cover the costs for installing and improving the trails and installing a restroom on the east end of the park, which are projects included in the park’s conceptual plan. The grant is an 80-20 match, meaning that the park would have to provide 20 percent of the cost. Applications for the first round of grants would be due in mid-February.

But after hearing back from a representative with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources recently, park board President Christine Prior said the park’s submission for the grant would likely not be approved.

“They weren’t too excited about doing restrooms. And one of our priorities is the restroom on the east end and the RV camping,” she said. “We were thinking that we could do that restroom on the east end along with the trails. But based on the conversation with the DNR, that would be a push.”

Prior told the Dubois County Commissioners last week that that grant was more so looking for projects that connected trails to other areas of the community.

“There is not a lot of connectivity to areas outside of the park, so we would not get as much money as we hoped,” she explained. “So we want to work with the county to connect with the growing neighborhoods around the park, and to see if there is a way to connect to [the] school nearby.

“So over the next year we’d like to look at connecting, and apply for the (Next Level) grant next year.”

In the meantime, the park board will pursue a state Land and Water grant, for which restrooms would qualify. So now, the plan is to submit an application for that grant to cover the costs of the restroom and for the installation of RV campsites, which are needed at the park. The grant is a 50-50 match, which means the grant would pay 50 percent of the cost, and the park would have to provide the other 50 percent. The application is due June 1.

“After looking at everything, we thought it might be better for us to back up and look at the land and water grant,” Prior said, “and then next year working with the county to see if there is a better connectivity.”

Demand is the reason why adding additional camping spaces is a priority to the county park board.

In 2018, campers rented 3,269 nights for camping, which is more than 2017’s total of 2,993. In 2017, the nightly fee increased, which is why that year’s total is less than 2016’s 3,860 rentals. But prior to that, rentals were steadily increasing: from 2,453 in 2013, to 2,790 in 2014, to 3,344 in 2015.

The revenue generated from nightly stays at the park has consistently increased over the years. In 2018, the amount collected was $49,693, which is more 2017’s total of $45,214. Six years ago, in 2013, the total was $26,578.

The campground consistently stays full. Location is one of the reasons for its popularity.

“Residents can go there as a weekend getaway with their friends,” Prior said. “We have people who will spend the week there and get up in the morning and go to work. So even though they aren’t on vacation, it’s a getaway.”

The park also sees campers who are visiting Patoka Lake as well. “People who are going to Patoka Lake like to camp there because it is inexpensive and isn’t as crowded as Patoka,” Prior said.

But the Next Level Trail grant will be considered next year. In the meantime, Prior suggested that the county work with the park board to see if trails can be connected to neighborhoods surrounding the park. Prior also mentioned that local communities are working on trail projects; there may possibility be interest in connecting those trails, if the communities are interested.

“If they want to connect the different communities in some way, (the connections) would probably have to go down some (county) road,” Prior said. “So the county would have to be involved.”




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