Gypsum City OHV Park prepares to open
No official date is set
City officials, businessmen and others involved in the development of the Gypsum City Off-Highway Vehicle Park toured the grounds of the facility Wednesday. Although no date has been set for the opening of the 300-acre park, located west of Webster County Road P-59, it is expected to open to the public soon.
Upon completion, the park will be Iowa’s eighth off-highway vehicle park and one of the largest in the state. Dan Kleen, executive director of the Iowa Off-highway Vehicle Association said the entire project consists of three phases, which could take 10 to 20 years.
‘‘Eventually it’ll be the largest park in the Midwest,’’ he said. ‘‘This park will bring in people from all over the Midwest.’’
The tour circled the park’s off-road trails and showed the four ponds, which are on park grounds.
The $800,000 project was funded primarily through the state’s vehicle registration program for off-highway vehicles but was awarded a $413,330 Iowa Department of Natural Resources grant in May.
‘‘We had some professional riders who said that this was one of the top five tracks (for fun) that they have ridden,’’ Kleen said.
Kleen, who is also president of the National Off-highway Vehicle Conservation Council, added that the project couldn’t have been possible without the help of local gypsum factories, City Council members and local legislators.
‘‘Of all the parks we’ve done, this is probably where we’ve had the biggest group effort,’’ he said. ‘‘We’re trying to get a safe, legal place (for people to ride).’’
Several local politicians, including State Sen. Daryl Beall, D-Fort Dodge, State Rep. Helen Miller, D-Fort Dodge, and State Rep. David Tjepkes, R-Gowrie, were instrumental in acquiring land and funding for the project.
One of the main issues was enabling gypsum companies to provide land for the project without being held liable for injuries that may occur.
‘‘It was still up to the gypsum companies to make the transfer but we made it so that they wouldn’t incur liability,’’ Beall said. ‘‘I’m very proud of what we did. ... I just see this as another reason to come to Fort Dodge.’’
Georgia Pacific Corp., National Gypsum Co. and the United States Gypsum Co. were the three businesses that offered land formerly used for mining.
Doug Crimmins, environmental health and safety manager for Georgia Pacific, said the company has been involved in a land-reclamation project since 1991.
The environmental stewardship program is designed to help conserve and develop land that was once used for mining by the Georgia Pacific Corp.
‘‘The (OHV) project was in keeping with Georgia Pacific’s end-use policy,’’ he said.
Two tracks — one for adults, the other for children — are being completed at the proposed park and will feature rolling dips, designed to drain water from the trail into a nearby ravine. Signs will also be set up around the track to indicate turns in the trail.
‘‘We’ve got a lot of employees that are excited for the park to open,’’ said Dave Sundberg, Georgia Pacific Corp. plant manager. ‘‘We’re glad that we can develop this to help the community.’’