DNR Ends Housing for Park Managers in Union Grove | News, Sports, Jobs


The Park Superintendent’s Residence at Union Grove State Park in western Tama County has been an amenity available to DNR personnel who have cared for the park since its construction in 1960. Rangers and managers of the DNR park were told late last year that they had to vacate their park residences by November 2022. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has decided to end housing options for staff of the park rather than investing nearly $900,000 to bring homes in 23 state parks up to code and up to date on maintenance and repairs. – Photo by Darvin Graham

A change is coming later this year that will remove park rangers and managers from their state-owned homes at 23 state parks across the state of Iowa, including Iowa State Park. ‘Union Grove in western Tama County.

In a story first reported by The Gazette in early February, it was revealed that due to years of delayed maintenance decisions, homes maintained by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in state parks like Union Grove needed a host. repairs to address housing code and safety issues as well as updates to broken or damaged areas.

In an inventory of state park homes being considered for termination, obtained by The Gazette, it showed the DNR estimated a cost of $341,000 to resolve code issues and an additional $556,000 to resolve a variety maintenance issues and updates.

Maintenance issues identified in the inventory of the 26 state-owned park homes include items such as window replacement, roof repair and replacement, siding replacement, updating old systems and electrical outlets, replacement of water and sewer lines, and replacement of the HVAC system, among other things.

According to a report on state-owned housing released by the DNR, staff houses had been left in disrepair because funds used to maintain the properties came from the same budget as funds used for contact park amenities. with customers such as campgrounds, bathrooms and shelters. This equipment has for several years been given budgetary priority over staff accommodation.

Union Grove State Park – File photo

The Union Grove State Park home is one of two on the DNR’s inventory list of 26 rated in poor condition. The other houses are classified in good or fair condition.

The other state park home to receive a low rating on the list is the park superintendent’s home at Lake of the Three Fires State Park in southwestern Iowa near Bedford.

According to the report, the home is in need of $40,000 worth of code-related repair items, including replacing badly-damaged windows, replacing badly-damaged vinyl siding, damaged flashings around the chimney that lead to roof leaks, outlets installed in damp locations, poor sanitary pipe and basement plumbing code violations.

The Union Grove State Park House was built in 1960 and is occupied by Union Grove DNR Park Superintendent Corey Fangman, who has been there for about three years.

The appraisal for the Union Grove Park home indicates a total of $35,000 worth of code-related items that should be addressed, including window replacements, installation of a radon system and CO detectors, replacing the exterior side door that no longer works, installing GFCI outlets in the bathroom, and repairing the electrical system damaged by mouse infestation.

Other updates and repairs identified in the report include repair or replacement of siding, fascia and gutter system; replacement of wall covering, flooring, ceiling and panelling; replacing the concrete staircase and walkway from the house to the park office, installing extensions on the downspouts, and hiring an exterminator to tackle the mouse problem.

Additional maintenance items were estimated at a total cost of $22,000, which would bring the overall cost of updating the Union Grove Park home to $57,000, not including an additional $2,500 per year for continue house maintenance after maintenance updates are complete. Completed.

Local concerns

One of the unique and defining features of the Union Grove State Park area is a community of nearly 80 private homes that share a portion of the 230-acre park with the DNR.

About half of the private houses are occupied full time while the rest are mainly used seasonally. The owners are represented by Union Grove Lake and Park Holding Corporation who work to strengthen and improve the park through a number of special projects and fundraising efforts.

“Few state parks have as much private property on the lake as we do here,” said Union Grove Lake and Park Holding Corporation Chairman Russ Pedersen. “So we try to work with the DNR as much as we can to help fund things or volunteer for things. I always tell people who live here that this is our investment. If we don’t have a lake, our houses are worthless. We must therefore reinvest in the lake all that we can.

Residents expressed concern when considering no longer having an MNR staff member living on site.

Currently, Fangman is the only DNR staff member assigned to Union Grove and although he does not work 24/7, residents believe his presence acts as a deterrent to illicit behavior.

“We are worried, a lot of residents are worried that they won’t have someone here full time,” Pedersen said. “Having someone here who can do ticketing for people if they’re on the lake when they’re not supposed to be or just having the DNR truck going around the lake helps a lot.”

The lake currently holds a “no alarm clock” policy that prohibits boats from creating a wake in the lake water that would disturb the environment for activities such as fishing and kayaking.

Pedersen said they’ve also had issues in the past with hunters trespassing on no-hunting park land.

Union Grove residents experienced life in a park without DNR staff not too long ago, when former park superintendent Roger Thompson retired before Fangman arrived.

Pedersen said that in the months between Thompson’s retirement and the installation of his replacement, the atmosphere around the park was noticeably different.

“You’ll bring people in and do things, because they know nobody’s really here,” Pedersen said. “Meanwhile, we were seeing boats going up and down the lake. And by the time we would call and get someone here, they were usually packed up and gone.

The park is remote and off the beaten path for outgoing Tama County law enforcement, nearly 20 miles away. Emergency services can also be spotty depending on the situation given the size of volunteer fire and rescue services in surrounding rural communities like Gladbrook, Garwin and Green Mountain.

In the DNR state owned housing report they indicated that they believed there was “no quantifiable benefit from housing customer service” staff members on park premises.

The 23 parks envisioned in this housing order represent only one-third of the total number of Iowa state parks, with the remaining two-thirds operating without staff housing.

The report says an internal housing assessment showed that all essential services are provided equally in places with and without public housing.

According to the Housing Report, DNR Park staff were given until November to vacate their respective residential properties. Once this transition is made, it is expected that Fangman will continue to work his regular hours and also be available for emergency response.


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