Portions of Red Haw State Park will reopen today, more than two months after a deadly tornado swept through Lucas County and the Chariton area, destroying much of the park’s infrastructure and foliage.
Park manager Bonnie Friend says the March 5th twister killed a man who was camping at the park and storm damage to the park itself was significant.
“We lost probably 75% of the campground as well as we lost all five docks, three shelters and the storage building,” Friend says. “So over this time since March 5th, we’ve had amazing progress.”
The National Weather Service says the EF-3 tornado that hit the park was on the ground more than 16 miles, with peak winds of 138 miles an hour. Friend says her park crew, as well as DNR staffers from elsewhere around the state, have worked long hours to clear hundreds of downed trees.
“We’ve also had a volunteer day where we had 229 people from across Iowa help us to clean the north side of any metal or debris, limbs, etcetera,” Friend says. “Then, an amazing disaster group by the name of Team Rubicon came in April for three days and what we were able to accomplish was just mind boggling.”
Parts of the park will be opening this morning, including day use areas, the beach for swimming, and one boat ramp. Friend hopes to get a kayak launch put in place next week, too. “We’ve been able to make the north side of the park safe for the public to visit, but the south side, all the trails, the campground and all the shelters are still closed,” Friend says. “We still have a tremendous amount of debris and trees to take care of in order to make it safe on the south side.”
No dollar estimate is being released on what it’s taken to get the park partly restored and Friend says it’ll be well into summer, perhaps fall, before the rest of the property can reopen. “There’s just so many unknown variables and so many things to take care of, and then there’s supply and demand issues as well,” Friend says. “I haven’t really been given a time. I just know that it’ll be at least three to four months just to remove trees that are broken and dangerous before we can even look about moving forward as far as repair.”
A GoFundMe page is raising money to help with clean-up, repair and reforestation.
Checks can also be sent to the DNR at Red Haw State Park, 24550 US Highway 34, Chariton, IA 50049. For updates, visit the Iowa DNR’s Alerts and Closure page: www.iowadnr.gov/parkclosures