Backbone Beach (Dundee, Delaware County, IA) Denison Beach (Black Hawk Lake, Lake View, Sac County, IA) Emerson Bay Beach (West Okoboji Lake, Milford, Dickinson County, IA) George Wyth Beach (Waterloo, Black Hawk County, IA) Lake Darling Beach (Brighton, Washington County, IA) Lake Keomah Beach (Oskaloosa, Mahaska County, IA) McIntosh Woods Beach (Clear Lake, Ventura, Cerro Gordo County, IA) Nine Eagles Beach (Davis City, Decatur County, IA)
Pandemic Highlights the Perennial Importance of Parks
Since COVID-19 has altered Iowans’ summer plans, a large number of Iowans have taken full advantage of outdoor recreation opportunities to get out of the house. As summer approaches its final month, that trend has not slowed down.
Iowa state and county parks have seen tremendous park, trail, and beach attendance since COVID-19 reached the state.
While different measures of attendance produce varying results, Richard Leopold, the director of the Polk County Conservation Board, said aggregate cell phone data has reported a 150% increase in Polk County park use. Data extrapolated from the American Trails Association has shown a 200% increase in Polk County trails use.
Similarly, Todd Coffelt, Chief of State Parks, Forests, and Preserves Bureau for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), said Google analytics reported a 140% increase in park attendance across the state of Iowa.
This increase in park attendance is even more monumental given that 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of Iowa State Parks. While many of Iowa DNR's celebratory events were postponed, or virtual, what better way to celebrate Iowa’s state parks than taking advantage of Iowa's natural wonders.
Typically, the Iowa DNR's summer attendance indicators are the weekends of Memorial Day and 4th of July, as they represent the peak of park activity most summers. However, this summer every weekend resembled the 4th and Memorial Day.
"Every weekend in June and May was like a holiday weekend," said Coffelt. “Day use numbers are above average; the parking lots are typically full on the weekends and on warm days trails have seen an increase in foot and bike traffic."