Park improvements could start this fall

Rendering courtesy Hafer Associates


BRETZVILLE — Work to add campsites, extend trails and build a restroom/information building could start at the Dubois County Park as early as this fall.

It would start after the camping season officially closes Nov. 1, so timing will be imperative, Dubois County Park Board President Christine Prior said at the board’s meeting Thursday.

“We do not want construction going on when the campers are out there,” she said.

The project, which is all part of the park’s master plan, calls for adding 14 RV campsites south of the current RV camping site. A restroom building that will also house an information center will be added near the southwest corner of a gravel parking lot, close to the lake and Our Precious Angels monument area. There will also be a new paved lot south of the restroom with space for 12 cars, five of those being wheelchair-accessible.

A trail running from the southeast side of the lot will be improved and connected to a new trail that will lead to the new RV campsite. The new trail will also connect to some existing trails that run through parts of the park and to the existing RV campsites. Those parts of the existing trails will be improved to be wheelchair-accessible.

The board heard that the environmental studies needed for its application for a Land and Water Conservation grant have been completed and submitted. The application itself, for $250,000, was submitted to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources in June. The board will match the grant to have $500,000 for the project.

The application must be approved by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, as well as the National Park Service.

“You’re real close to getting federal approval, Lisa Gehlhausen, executive director of Indiana 15 Regional Planning Commission, said at Thursday’s meeting. “You have state approval, from DNR. Now you’re seeking national approval from the National Park Service.”

Gehlhausen expects federal approval for the grant will come in March. Once it does, the park board can then seek bids from contractors.

Board member Joe Keusch shared his concern that it may be hard to find a contractor who can complete the project while the campsite is officially closed and asked if there was any flexibility in the timeline for completing the project.

“Excavation companies are extremely busy now,” he said. “It was a challenge to find one for a job that I had [on my family’s farm]. It was just finding people willing to commit to doing it.”

Gehlhausen said DNR and the National Park Service have some flexibility with the timeline. “They do want you to complete the project,” Gehlhausen said. “They give you years from the grant agreement. So you have time to complete it.”

The year’s revenue totals showed that the additional camping sites, especially RV sites, are needed. Park Superintendent Bob Gress said that the total revenue collected in 2019 was $54,627. That is a almost a $5,000 jump from 2018’s total of $49,693. In 2017, the total was $45,214 and in 2016, the total was $40,021.

RV campers have asked if they can stay in a spot longer than the current limit of two weeks. Board members said they will look at that idea once there are additional campsites.

People gave improvement suggestions during the park’s 50th anniversary celebration in October. Ideas included making the new RV camp pads longer and at an angle, having a central dumpster, changing the traffic flow pattern at the dump station and making the 10 mph speed limit signs larger so that they are more visible to drivers.

The celebration was well attended and productive, Prior said. She said the board should consider holding more gatherings for public input, to which board members agreed.

The next park board meeting will be at 5 p.m. Monday, April 27, after which the board will have its annual joint meeting at 6 p.m. with the Dubois County 4-H Council.

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