DNR Ends Housing for Park Managers in Union Grove | News, Sports, Jobs

PHOTO BY DARVIN GRAHAM The Park Superintendent’s Residence at Union Grove Park in western Tama County has been available to DNR personnel assigned to the park since its construction in 1960. DNR Park Rangers and Managers were told late last year that they had to vacate the residences by November 2022. Bringing the accommodations at 23 state parks up to code and up to date on maintenance and repairs would have cost at DNR about $900,000.

GLADBROOK — A change coming later this year will remove rangers and park managers from their state-owned homes at 23 state parks across Iowa, including Iowa State Park. Union Grove in western Tama County.

In early February, The Gazette reported that due to years of delayed maintenance decisions, homes owned by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in state parks like Union Grove needed an upgrade. host of repairs to meet housing code and safety. problems as well as updates of broken or damaged areas.

In an inventory of state park homes slated for termination, obtained by The Gazette, the DNR estimated a cost of $341,000 to fix code issues and an additional $556,000 to meet various maintenance needs. , including window replacement, roof repair and replacement, siding replacement, updating old electrical systems and outlets, replacing water and sewer lines, and replacing the HVAC system, among others.

According to a report on state-owned housing by the DNR, staff houses had been left in disrepair because funds used to maintain the properties came from the same budget as funds used for park-facing amenities. customers like campsites, bathrooms and shelters. . This equipment has for several years been given budgetary priority over staff accommodation.

The Union Grove home is one of two on the DNR’s inventory list of 26 classified as being in poor condition – the Lake of the Three Fires State Park home near Bedford is the other – while that the others are classified in good or fair condition.

The Union Grove State Park House was built in 1960 and is occupied by Union Grove DNR Park Superintendent Corey Fangman, who has been there for about three years.

The home’s appraisal indicates a total of $35,000 worth of code-related items that should be addressed, including window replacement, installation of radon system and CO detectors, door replacement exterior side that no longer works, installation of GFCI outlets in the bathroom and repair of the electrical system damaged by a mouse infestation.

Other updates and repairs identified in the report include repair or replacement of the siding, fascia and gutter system; replacement of wall covering, flooring, ceiling and panelling; replacing the concrete staircase and walkway from the house to the park office, installing extensions on the downspouts, and hiring an exterminator to tackle the mouse problem.

Additional maintenance items were estimated at a total cost of $22,000, which would bring the overall cost of updating the Union Grove Park home to $57,000, not including an additional $2,500 per year for continue house maintenance after maintenance updates are complete. Completed.

Local concerns

One of the unique and defining features of the Union Grove State Park area is a community of nearly 80 private homes that share a portion of the 230-acre park with the DNR.

About half of the private houses are occupied full-time, while the rest are mainly used seasonally. The owners are represented by Union Grove Lake and Park Holding Corporation, who work to strengthen and improve the park through a number of special projects and fundraising efforts.

“Few state parks have as much private property on the lake as we do here,” said Russ Pedersen, chairman of the board of directors of Union Grove Lake and Park Holding Corporation. “So we try to work with the DNR as much as we can to help fund things or volunteer for things. I always tell people who live here that this is our investment. If we don’t have a lake, our houses are worth nothing. We must therefore reinvest in the lake all that we can.

Residents have expressed concerns about no longer having an MNR staff member living on site.

Currently, Fangman is the only staff member assigned to Union Grove, and although he does not work 24/7, residents believe his presence acts as a deterrent to illicit behavior.

“We’re concerned. A lot of residents are concerned that they don’t have someone here full time,” Pedersen said. that they’re not meant to be or just having the DNR truck going around the lake helps a lot.”

The lake currently holds a “no wake” policy which prohibits boats from creating a wake in the lake water that would disturb the environment for activities such as fishing and kayaking. Pedersen said they’ve also had issues in the past with hunters entering parks where hunting isn’t allowed.

Union Grove residents had already lived park life without MNR staff when former park superintendent Roger Thompson retired before Fangman arrived. Pedersen said the atmosphere around the park was noticeably different during the intervening period.

“You’ll have people going out and doing things because they know nobody’s really here,” Pedersen said. “During this time we would see boats going up and down the lake, and by the time we called and brought someone here, they were usually packed up and gone.”

The park is remote and off the beaten path for outbound law enforcement in Tama County, which is nearly 20 miles to the southeast. Emergency services can also be spotty depending on the situation given the size of volunteer fire and rescue services in surrounding rural communities like Gladbrook, Garwin and Green Mountain.

The DNR’s report on state-owned housing concluded that there was “no quantifiable benefit to customer service” from housing staff members on park premises.

The 23 parks included in this housing order represent only one-third of the total number of state parks in Iowa, with the remaining two-thirds operating without staff housing. The report says an internal housing assessment showed that all essential services are provided equally in places with and without public housing.

According to the report, DNR park staff were given until November to vacate their respective residential properties. Once transitioned, it is expected that Fangman will continue to work his regular hours and also be available for emergency response situations.

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