Lake Darling grand opening set for July 24
BRIGHTON — Fay Vittetoe, president of Friends of Lake Darling, announced that a grand opening ribbon cutting for Lake Darling State Park will be held at 1:30 p.m. July 24 at the main entrance to the park on Highways 1 and 78.
She said the ribbon cutting would be followed by a ceremony in which a bust of Jay “Ding” Darling would be unveiled. A large community picnic is also planned on the beach of the newly restored lake. Vittetoe said that after the ceremony the park would be open to campers.
“After 14 years and over $14 million, I am honored to announce this ribbon cutting,” she said. “The soil and water practices that have been put into place over the last 14 years and the public and private partnership are a testimony to Ding Darling’s conservation ethic.”
Vittetoe also reported that Lake Darling is entirely full of water. A recorded message at the Lake Darling office reports that the lake is still “drained.” The dam had been closed Feb. 12 and water has been accumulating in the lake ever since.
She said there had been plans to open the park for the July 4 weekend, but the recent heavy rains have slowed work down. She said crews are working to complete the final stages of the project, including restoring water pressure.
“Basically, it will be a new park,” Department of Natural Resources fisheries management technician Vance Polton said. “There are new ponds in the park that are done and all the trails are changed. The dam is completely different than it used to be. The campground is completely new. Even the shower buildings have been completely replaced.”
Brighton Chamber of Commerce vice president Rose Jaynes also reported that the state has approved allowing a stretch of Highway 78 from Olds to 149 to be renamed “Ding Darling Highway.” She said that the chamber has requested a minigrant from the Washington County Riverboat Foundation to help pay for the signage. She also said the Iowa Department of Transportation will help establish the location of the signs, as well as provide the labor to install the signage.
Darling was a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist who worked for newspapers in Des Moines and Sioux City. He was also a prominent figure in the conservation movement. He dedicated Lake Darling State Park on Sept. 17, 1950, during the first dam gate setting. He died Feb. 12, 1962.
Additionally, the DNR stocked 30,000 2-inch largemouth bass in the lake. In April and May of this year, 152,000 2-inch bluegills were also stocked. In the fall, over 91,000 sunfish will be stocked, and adult male crappies will be stocked in the spring of 2015.
The lake had been drained in 2008 to remove silt from the bed in a project that was supposed to last two years. Due to many problems, the work wasn’t able to be accomplished until recently. The $4.2 million the project had been expected to cost has since changed to $5 million, which includes improvements to the park.