REAP Key to Creating Banner Lakes at Summerset State Park
Posted: 08/19/2014

REAP: 25 Years of Enhancing and Protecting Iowa’s Resources

REAP funding has made possible Iowa’s newest state Park. Nestled in the rolling landscape between Des Moines and Indianola, Banner Lakes at Summerset State Park opened in 2004. Serving as a midway point for the 13-mile Summerset Trail, it has quickly become a favored recreational destination.

Only the second Iowa state park established in the last 27 years, Banner Lakes at Summerset State Park provides fishing, boating, hiking, mountain biking, picnicking, target shooting and hunting.  Couple that with a stellar location and most would agree: Banner Lakes is a great addition to Iowa’s state park system.

Once the scene for Iowa’s largest strip-mining coal operation in the 1930s, the Banner Pits (named after the Banner Coal Company) became a public hunting area in 1954. Responding to changing recreational demands, REAP funding has set up new and enhanced recreational opportunities — introducing Summerset State Park as a welcome diversion from the trappings of urban civilization.

“Banner Lakes is a popular area for as small as it is, due to its proximity to Des Moines,” said Iowa State Park Bureau District Supervisor Jim Lawson.

As one of central Iowa’s few stocked trout fisheries from October through May, South Banner Lake provides anglers plenty of possibilities. Trout up to 10 pounds are stocked annually.

Banner Lakes also provides occasion for excellent boating and shoreline fishing. The Iowa Trails' Crew constructed a new cantilevered fishing pier with REAP funding. The original handicap-accessible pier has also been renovated, and rocking provides additional shoreline fishing access along the main boat ramp. All motor sizes are allowed on the lake, at no-wake speeds. Other species in both lakes include channel catfish, largemouth bass, bluegill, and crappie.

Fire grills and picnic tables make up numerous shoreline picnic locations on the large lake and adjacent to the main parking area. Restrooms are available at the entrance, concession and boat ramp at the large lake. Banner Lakes’ two-mile paved multi-use trail loop connects to the Summerset Trail, while an additional five miles of hard-packed single-track mountain biking trails offer added fun.

“REAP serves as an important source of funding for us and allows our projects to take place. Much of the work we do wouldn’t get done without that funding source; it’s extremely important to all the facilities we have,” Lawson said.

Before its transformation into a recreational area, the wildlife area was too rugged for family use.  Shooting up washing machines and microwaves was the primary “recreational activity.”  Rock tailings were used for bullet backdrops — causing ricochets to zing every which way. The dumping got so bad that wildlife management personnel would have to use dump trucks to haul out shot-up trash every month.

Now shooting is done in the safe, controlled environment of the adjacent Banner shooting range, which provides updated range facilities including sheltered shooting benches and a hard surface parking lot. Banner range also adjoins Middle River Wildlife Area, which provides outstanding public hunting opportunities on 1,000 acres.

“REAP has really turned Banner Lakes around into a useful piece of property for us; a lot of people enjoy it,” Lawson said.

In its 25 years, REAP has benefited every county in Iowa by supporting 14,535 projects. REAP has funded these projects with $264 million in state investments, leveraging two to three times that amount in private, local and federal dollars. Collectively, these projects have improved the quality of life for all Iowans with better soil and water quality, added outdoor recreation opportunities, sustained economic development, enhanced knowledge and understanding of our ecological and environmental assets, and preservation of our cultural and historic treasures.