As the weather warms up, it’s time to start another summer season packed with fishing, hiking, and camping. It’s also the start of more construction work at F.W. Kent Park in eastern Johnson County (Iowa).
As per a report, Kent Park on Highway 6 in Oxford is free and is open to the public. “It’s kind of a hidden gem,” Park Ranger Aaron Ohlsen said.
Kent Park has seen a record number of visitors during the pandemic, and the county expects the high number of visitors to continue due to the growing population of Johnson County.
Due to the park’s increased use, the county is investing $3.4 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to replace the campground shower house and wastewater system, which will positively impact the water quality in the lake.
“The main thing we’re concerned about is that when people come out here, they have a good time with their families, and we want them to enjoy the park,” Conservation Director Larry Gullett said.
Johnson County Conservation identified several projects at Kent Park in 2015, including replacing the shower house. Construction documents were completed in 2017, but the project was delayed until funds were available.
While waiting for funding for the shower building, Kent Park lake underwent a $3.3 million restoration after warnings of algae and bacteria. The lake was drained in April 2017 and refilled in May 2019.
Following the lake’s restoration, Gullett stated that conservation officials noticed one of the bays collecting drainage was full of algae.
“What we found out is that the campground shower house wastewater system was exceeding its design capacity, and we were leaking nutrients from the wastewater system in the campground into the lake,” Gullett said.
Gullett said that the dump station for those RV camping exceeded its design capacity.
After months of deliberation and discussing various options, the supervisors approved $3.4 million of APRA dollars to make improvements at Kent Park’s campground.
“When the supervisors made their final decisions, we were really excited because it’s such an expensive project, but it needs to be done for environmental quality,” Gullett said.
There are also plans to upgrade the beach at Kent Park, as well as to improve the park’s infrastructure, making the park more accessible.
“We’re hoping that the campground shower house is the first major project that will address some of these issues, not only water quality, but our new shower house is going to be completely ADA accessible,” Gullett said.
Additionally, Gullett said that the department is currently working on a $5 million project that will connect the Clear Creek Trail to Kent Park, which should be completed in the next two to three years. The project is a 2.5-mile extension.
According to the Johnson County website, the Kent Park Family Campground was voted the Best Place to Camp in a public opinion poll conducted in 2002 by the Iowa City Press-Citizen.
The park is best known for its secluded campsites; the campground features 86 electric (30 & 50 amp service) with pit toilets and shower facilities that include flush toilets.
All sites are $20.00 per night, and no reservations are required for campsites as they are all on a first-come, first-served basis.
For more information, visit https://www.johnsoncountyiowa.gov/conservation/kent-park.
This story originally appeared on The Gazette. Featured image from Johnson County Iowa.