City soon to hire golf course designer
Even as the final touches are being put to plans for the lodge hotel and water park centerpiece of the Project AWAYSIS destination park in Storm Lake, residents can expect to begin seeing things happen as early as this fall.
Work is expected to begin then on a $4 million complete re-do of the Casino Beach Marina area, a related project funded by the DNR and the state of Iowa, according to Mike Wilson, who gave a special update on AWAYSIS to visitors during the Star Spangled Spectacular Monday.
This fall, the DNR expects to remove the island and dredge the bay at the marina, and in summer and fall of 2006, the DNR plans to remove all developments on the site and start fresh with a new road, building, lot, boat ramps and slips. Work is anticipated to be complete in spring, 2007.
Wilson said he is almost positive that Sunrise Park Road will be moved this fall, allowing for site preparation work for the lodge and water park to begin. That would allow the city to "start building out of the ground in the spring."
The new section of road will curve off Highway 7 near Lakeshore Cyclery, passing in the area where the golf course cart buildings now sit.
The plans for the lodge and the outline of the water park are expected late this month. Wilson hopes that a 3-D model of the destination park can also be built for display, if that can be done affordably.
It is hoped that the lodge, water park, beach and playground area can all be ready to open in April, 2007 - together, "for the biggest possible splash," Wilson said.
In other news, AWAYSIS planners have recently decided to switch sites for the playground and the Great Lawn gathering space. This will allow the Great Lawn to be near the lodge for catered outdoor events, and for the playground to be near the beach so that families can easily use both areas.
The lighthouse feature at the beach, to be situated at the base of the existing jetty, has been slated to be 65 feet high, with an observation deck at 50 feet. It will host concessions and restrooms, and include an elevator, Wilson said.
Plans have also been made to hope- fully save Pioneer Rock and move it elsewhere in the community. Although nothing has been decided, one option suggested has been to make it a center point within the AWAYSIS playground.
Recently, experts attempted to measure and calculate the weight of the massive landmark. They guess it to be 50 tons. "That's going to take a pretty big crane to move, and we'd like to make sure where we want it, because you only want to attempt to move something like that once," Wilson said.
The committee to redo the campground has also recently met with architects. The group is trying to make way for bigger slips and more drive-through areas for RVs, while working to retain the current mature trees on the site.
Storm water has also been a matter of much recent discussion. Plans are being made to move current outlets, without locating any in the new beach area, or disturbing the prime shoreline spawning habitat for walleye, Wilson said. The engineering is being done now.
Work is also being done to install a filtering system up from the outlet near Lake and Lakeshore. This would help to remove contaminates from most rains before they could enter the lake, although it wouldn't be able to handle a six-inch downpour such as the watershed experienced this season. It might also provide a little more protection from any potential for storm sewer spills originating in the Tyson area, officials hope.
The state continues to plan for a Highway 7 rebuilding project through Storm Lake in 2007, which would provide an all-new surface as well as curb and gutters in the AWAYSIS area. That project too is looking at unique ways to move storm water to prevent lake pollution.
AWAYSIS fundraisers are continuing to push for their goal. The $1.5 million point was recently reached, and it is expected that the $2 million goal could be hit early this fall. "We will keep going until we get there," Wilson said, praising the fundraising work of a team of volunteers.
In response to a question, Wilson noted that geese must be kept away from the new public beach to avoid a problem with contamination from droppings. It has been learned that geese seldom venture out of sight of water, so the beach design may incorporate a visual buffer. It is also important the people not feed waterfowl in the area. As well as controlling the birds, such actions can harm the birds' systems and prevent them from normal migrations.
Finally, the city plans to hire a golf course designer late this summer or this fall to begin work on laying out the new course. Work is expected to start around Labor Day in 2006 and finish around Memorial Day of 2007 to allow golfers to play the coming season.
Development of a new neighborhood of condos on the course is expected to begin in fall of 2006. Already, about 30 people who have shown interest are on a list of potential buyers, although no one has been asked to commit at this point.
The lodge plan is being completed to offer a "Wow!" look to the heart of the project, Wilson said. The design is being done to allow as many rooms as possible to face the water, and the restaurant and lounge will also have water views, as well as an outside deck near lake level. The restaurant will be tiered in several levels to preserve the view.
"Every day, someone asks when something is going to start happening," Wilson said. At this time, the big step is being taken of moving parts of the park from the concept board stage to building specifications. "We have to get it into the specifications before we can see things rising from the ground," he said.
"We look at the area right now and think it is a lot of room, but in reality, it is going to be pretty tight. This is a big water park and a big lodge, and that's where it can get a little tricky."
New ways of thinking must go along with the planning and financing, Wilson said. "We have company coming."
On hand for the briefing was State Auditor David Vaudt, a member of the Vision Iowa board that voted in favor of the initial state funding for AWAYSIS.
"We were extremely impressed with the vision and passion of the leaders of your community," he told the small crowd gathered in the Chautauqua shelterhouse in the midst of the July 4th celebration. "The State of Iowa is proud to be a partner with Storm Lake to make this happen, although our role seems quite small next to what the community itself it doing."