Damaged trees at Red Haw after the tornado. (DNR photo)

Volunteers are needed this weekend to help restore a state park that was heavily damaged in a tornado just over a year ago.

One camper was killed when the powerful EF-3 twister cut across southern Iowa’s Lucas County on March 5th of 2022, destroying much of the infrastructure and foliage at Red Haw State Park near Chariton. Park manager Riley Henry says the clean-up project involves picking up debris that was scattered across the 649-acre park.

“We are doing a tin and metal clean-up throughout the forest,” Henry says. “We had a lot of shelters and other buildings get damaged and there’s still a lot of debris throughout the forest. We’re just looking to get some help to move that out, put into dumpsters, we’ll have a couple staging spots, and really just work to get that forest cleaned back up.”

Given the amount of damage, Henry says volunteers and DNR crews have already done an amazing job in making repairs and restoring the park’s many amenities. Henry says, “The only area that is currently closed is the campground and we’re just working on getting that back up and running as we can.”

The National Weather Service says the tornado that hit the park was on the ground more than 16 miles, with peak winds of 138 miles an hour. Another tornado that same day struck Madison County near Winterset, killing six people and damaging or destroying more than 50 houses.

In addition to the campground, the park lost all five lake docks, three shelters and a storage building, along with many hundreds of trees. “They actually took out 6,100 cubic yards of one-inch mulch out of the campground from fallen trees that had been grinded down to mulch,” Henry says. “There are a lot of bald spots, but we did plant about 1,000 trees throughout the park to help get the reforestation processes back up and going.”

The volunteer event is this Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. Henry says to dress for the weather and bring work gloves, hiking boots and a water bottle. Volunteers are asked to RSVP by contacting the park office at 641-774-5632.

Radio Iowa