The first step has been taken toward a new campground along the shore of Five Island Lake. The City of Emmetsburg was notified late last week that REAP grant funding has been approved to purchase property south of Sewell Park.
"This will be a multi-year project that will greatly enhance public access to Five Island Lake," said Emmetsburg City Administrator John Bird. "There is a great need for additional campground space with lake access."
Negotiations to purchase property along Five Island Lake began mid-summer.
"We were aware that Dr. Richards wanted to sell the property and we initially contacted him to see if the City could purchase a 60-foot strip to improve a road and create a green space for more public access to Five Island Lake," said Bird.
The land is owned by K&R Properties, Gary Kirke and Dr. Mike Richards, and is located south of Sewell Park. The parcel is approximately 18 acres and had been purchased by K&R Properties in 2006.
"We continued discussions with Dr. Richards and asked if he would be willing to sell the property to the city at a discounted rate, which would also allow them to make a charitable contribution," said Bird.
"The property was appraised at $400,000. We agreed to a $200,000 price and the city accepted a $200,000 gift," Bird said.
Purchase of the entire 18-acre tract opened the possibility of establishing a campground, either as a marina or lakeside park. Neal Guess, from Bolton & Menk, prepared the conceptuals.
REAP grant funding was applied for to assist in paying for the land. Northwest Iowa Planning and Development assisted writing the grant application.
"We asked for the maximum amount a city our size could request," said Bird. "Late last week we were notified that the Natural Resources commission had approved our REAP grant of $75,000, which is what we had requested."
Presentation to the REAP board included the two conceptuals, one for a marina and the other for a lakeside park. The marina concept includes canal access from the campground to Five Island Lake. The lakeside park concept includes an inland lagoon.
"We talked with Jim Whal from the Clear Lake office of DNR and Mike Hawkins from Okoboji area DNR to see what type of water feature would be allowed if we bought the land," said Bird. "Mike Hawkins even wrote a letter of support to submit with our REAP grant application."
Bird noted, "As soon as we close on the property, we will submit a joint application to the Corps of Engineers and the Department of Natural Resources to cut part of the bank for a canal to connect the body of water (lagoon) with the lake."
Now, with the REAP grant in hand, plans are moving forward toward a lakeside park with marina. The addition would be contiguous to Sewell Park.
The proposal calls for 50 slots for campers, complete with dumping station, along with three cabins to be rented. A multi-slip dock in the lagoon is proposed for campers. A shelter area, with showers and restrooms, would serve the campsite as well as those who utilize Sewell Park.
Plans call for a sea store, owned by the city, that would provide gasoline and provisions, such as fishing licenses, tackle and bait. A proposed walking trail would extend from the boat ramp on the north end of the south bay, around the lagoon, with a bridge over the canal. There will also be a handicap accessible public fishing pier on the lagoon.
"We will continue to maintain the privately owned public docks at Sewell Park," Bird added.
Currently, the only campground area on Five Island Lake is located at Kearney State Park where there are 16 slots for campers.