Lake Darling receives $300,000 grant
RIVERSIDE — Friends of Lake Darling received almost $300,000 from the Washington County Riverboat Foundation Dec. 11 to help with the cost of building three four-season cabins at Lake Darling State Park.
The foundation distributed 52 grants at its fall grant presentation ceremony that day totaling more than $1.3 million. The grant to Friends of Lake Darling was the largest of them all.
“We’re really thrilled. That’s what we asked for,” said Friends of Lake Darling board member Don Kline. “It will make it a more complete park. Obviously, it’s getting a lot of renovation right now, and this is kind of the cream on the cake.”
The building process for the cabins will begin next spring and could be open as early as next fall, Kline said.
The Friends of Lake Darling are a non-profit group of volunteers who are dedicated to their mission statement of making “the great Lake Darling State Park extraordinary.” The group raises money for new facilities that are available to the public year-round.
Lake Darling, located 20 miles northeast of Fairfield, is in its final stages of renovation and lake restoration. Friends of Lake Darling president Fay Vittetoe said she expects the renewed destination park to draw larger crowds for fishing, swimming, boating, hiking, biking, weddings, reunions and camping.
The three new cabins will be 765 square feet in size. They will be between the campground and the four-season lodge in a shaded area overlooking the lake. They will contain two bedrooms, a futon sleeper in the great room as well as heating and air conditioning.
As many as eight people can stay in a cabin, which are handicapped accessible. The cabins have a full kitchen, a bathroom and an extra 255 square feet devoted to a desk/patio. Concrete trails will connect the cabins to the campground as well as to the lodge, beach, fishing jetties and boathouse.
The Friends of Lake Darling will match about half of the grant from the foundation, supplying about $153,000 toward the project from sources such as private memorial donations, local businesses and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Now that the group has secured funding for Phase I of its cabin project, it will embark on Phase II, which is to build three additional cabins to have a total of six new cabins in the next year. Friends of Lake Darling have already received a $10,000 matching donation for the Phase II cabins.
The DNR has earmarked $200,000 toward the second set of cabins, but not until fiscal year 2016. However, the DNR has offered to build all six cabins at once if Friends of Lake Darling can have enough money raised by June 2014. If the Friends can do that, the DNR will build the cabins in fall 2014. Vittetoe said building the cabins all at once will be great because the park won’t have the mess and disturbance of construction more than once. Plus, the completion of the cabins would coincide with the park’s grand re-opening in spring 2015. The cost of completing all six cabins is about $900,000.
Meanwhile, construction continues on other projects throughout the park. Vittetoe said heavy equipment is finishing the restoration of the lakebed. Elsewhere, 30 to 40 percent of the roads have been paved, and even more will be paved once the weather warms up in the spring. The DNR plans to close the gate on the dam in early spring to allow the lake to fill with water to be reopened in fall 2014.
The renovation of Lake Darling has generated such interest that Marvo Entertainment Group wants to film a documentary about the lake, how it got its name and what it is today. The lake was named after Jay “Ding” Darling, an editorial cartoonist and renowned conservationist of the mid-20th century.
The 30-minute documentary will be about how a small town like Brighton became the driving force behind a $15 million renovation project. It will feature newly discovered footage of Darling and interviews with organizers involved in the lake’s restoration.
For further information on Friends of Lake Darling, contact Vittetoe at 319-694-2815 or visit www.friendsoflakedarling.com.