Lake Wapello State Park use ‘explodes’ this summer

Campers filled the campground at Lake Wapello this past weekend as people flock to state parks for outdoor recreation after being confined due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Park Ranger Chad Horn said last week Lake Wapello State Park is busier this season than it has been since he began working at the lake in 2004.

“It’s just exploded this year. People are just wanting to get out, and there have not been a lot of options for getting out during the pandemic,” he said.

“Camping, day use, beach use, fishing…it’s been a very busy season since Governor Reynolds lifted restrictions on park use in May.”

Horn said he estimates there have been 300-400 people on the beach at times. “The swimmers are packed in there,” he said.

“It’s supposed to be rainy this weekend,” he commented last Friday. “I hope so; I need a break. I’m ready to slow down.”

With all of those people turning out to enjoy the outdoors comes the potential for increasing the spread of COVID-19. Horn worries about that, but feels somewhat helpless in this situation.

“We have only two to three employees and there are so many park visitors,” he said. “All we can do is provide the education and recommend people social distance and wash hands frequently. From there, it becomes the personal responsibility of those using the park.”

Horn says he and Park Manager Ron Moore operate a park paid for by the citizens and it is for them to enjoy. “It’s a free-of-charge place for the public to enjoy, and we can’t close it down,” he said.

“Some people are doing their best to stop the spread of COVID, but unfortunately, too much of the population is not,” he commented.

Horn said staff members are sanitizing cabins at the park the best they can. Check-out is at 9 a.m. instead of 11 a.m., and check-in is at 5 p.m. instead of 4 p.m., giving staff three hours extra to disinfect cabins between groups.

“We also regularly disinfect restrooms, shower houses, and everything else that’s open,” he said.

Horn said park employees follow CDC sanitation guidelines, and he advises the public “to be smart and follow the guidelines” when they visit the lake.