BIGELOW, Mo. — Northwest Missouri’s flooding means one of its most popular state parks will almost literally remain dead in the water for patrons until next season.
Nonetheless, officials at Big Lake State Park are already preparing a plan that will eventually redirect their efforts from debris and other cleanup to the activities that will be necessary to launch the 2020 tourist season.
Mark Kunkel, the park’s superintendent, said crews were able to return to the grounds in mid-April. But the latest round of flooding kicked everyone back out again in early May.
“We got everything cleaned out the first time,” Kunkel told News-Press NOW on Wednesday. “We were very fortunate. It didn’t kill our grass.”
Two pit latrines and a shower house sustained damage, he said. Eight portable cabins were moved out of the park on March 15 and remain on standby in Mound City, Missouri.
Visitors still can’t book reservations for the flooded Big Lake State Park, with the season now essentially canceled all the way through October.
“The people that made reservations for the season, they’ve been refunded their money,” said Kunkel.
Visitors who already had booked their stays at either the 76 campsites or the eight cabins of Big Lake will have their choice of transferring their reservations to another state park of their choosing.
Despite the waters’ obliteration, the problem of restoring the park for a hoped-for resurgence is much on Kunkel’s mind these damp days.
“A lot of it (list of damage), I have already gotten to the state, so they can get a cost estimate,” he said. “We’ve already started repairing some of the electrical. We’ve still got things to reopen from the first flood.”
The May version resulted in depths 2 to 3 feet higher, and this time even reached inside the main administrative office.
“It surprised us,” Kunkel said.
Holes in the grass will have to be filled, and the swimming pool may require sandblasting from a contractor.
“The pool is going to be a big expense,” he added.
Kunkel said the timing of those renovations will depend on levee repairs. A Missouri River level that is expected to hover around the 19- to 20-foot mark all summer is another challenge betraying the desire for renewal. More sand deposited on the area than ever before poses an additional hurdle.
For the moment, the target date for opening is April 15, 2020.
While the park looks forward to the future, its neighbors are coping as best they can with the situation. Kyle Tubbs, a farmer from Craig, Missouri, said the floodwaters he’s seen this time are 4 to 5 feet lower than in March.
“We’re just doing some maintenance” of the farm, he said. His pigs have twice been moved to higher ground in Craig and Maitland, and Tubbs also said he’ll probably be able to plant only a third of his usual row crops this year.