Campers say experience has different feel after derecho

Published: Jul. 3, 2021 at 10:49 PM CDT
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LINN COUNTY, Iowa (KCRG) - The traditional camping experience was in full effect July 3rd at Wanatee Park in Marion, complete with cooking beans and slices of fruit.

“We cook over the fire a lot,” Samantha Gaspar, a camper from Marion, said.

Gaspar, her husband Mike, and dog Harley spend at least one week a month during the summer camping in Wanatee Park.

David Holtz moved to Florida last year but lived in Cedar Rapids for 35 years. His family spent a lot of time camping at Wanatee Park over the years.

“We love being out in nature and the quiet of it,” Holtz said. “You can’t unplug because some of the larger campers have a lot of technology, but it was nice to be outside.”

Holtz and Gaspar both said the campground had a different feel following the August 10 derecho. 120 trees were cleared from the park since the storm hit.

“It was harder to find a spot in the shade, but they continue to work on it and take care of the landscape,” Gaspar said.

It’s a feeling of change that’s not limited to just the campgrounds or parks in Linn County.

“When you drive to different parts of Cedar Rapids and Marion, not just the campground, you notice the open areas that you didn’t see before,” Holtz said.

The two campers said the most significant change was the aesthetic of the forestry around the park. Ryan Schlader, a Linn County Conservation community outreach specialist, said it was not stopping people from camping. They’ve seen an increase in the number of campers every year for the last decade.

“Campers didn’t seem to mind,” Schlader said. “They still came out to enjoy all the benefits of camping and being outdoors. We haven’t seen a drop-off.”

While the number of people wanting to camp continued to grow, Gaspar said people could take the derecho as a learning opportunity.

“The county has a lot of natural resources,” Gaspar said. We need to take care of them and invest in them.”

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