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Include Iowa state parks in your vacation plans this year

Today is National Plan For Vacation Day and Iowa’s state parks are encouraging all Iowans to include them in their vacation plans.

According to a recent study, 42 percent of Iowa workers said “it’s good for their boss to see them as a work ‘martyr,’” willing to sacrifice their vacation time for work. This is 3 percent higher than the national average.

“We really want people to use their vacations, and see all that our state parks offer, “ says Todd Coffelt, DNR State Parks bureau chief. “Workers need to take time off to decompress and relax, whether it’s by themselves or with family and friends.”

State park receipts show more people are using state parks as their go-to destinations.

Last year, state parks welcomed more than 15 million visitors, up more than 750,000 over the previous year.  And over the last five years, guest camping days in state parks have increased 18 percent.

 “Our state parks had a great year in 2016,” says Coffelt. “The weather really cooperated throughout most of the state, with a gorgeous spring and lingering fall. We are hoping for a repeat this year so people can get out to our parks early and often. We have more than 4,700 campsites statewide just waiting for campers.”

Iowa state parks has added more than 300 existing campsites to their reservation system this year, making reserving that perfect spot a little easier. These sites will be available on the reservation system ahead of the Memorial Day weekend reservation window.  

For those planning a stay during one of the major summer holidays, camping reservation windows will open Feb. 26 for Memorial Day, April 4 for Fourth of July and June 1 for Labor Day.

State parks offer campsites that appeal to a broad range of campers, from the more primitive hike-in sites to those with all the popular amenities.

Three state parks made significant upgrades to their campgrounds in 2016 -- Red Haw in Lucas County, Lake Wapello in Davis County and Fairport along the Mississippi in Muscatine County -- and now offer 50-amp electrical service.  

In August last year, Lake Darling State Park in Washington County added six modern two-bedroom cabins. They are available year-round, each sleep six and include a full kitchen, full bath and a beautiful covered deck.  All six are handicapped-accessible and five are pet friendly.  

A total of 92 cabins are available to rent in 19 state parks, and 10 parks have cabins available year-round. They start at $25 per night for simple camping cabins to $200 per night for the multi-family cabin at Springbrook State Park.

Day users and party planners may want to consider the new Lakeview shelter at Brushy Creek State Recreation Area in Webster County. The shelter holds 140 people and rents for $75 per day plus tax. The shelter is similar to the three large shelters at Big Creek State Park in Polk County that each hold 180 and rent for the same price. 

Both Brushy Creek and Big Creek have new beach cabanas as well for smaller group gatherings -- nine at Big Creek and four at Brushy Creek. Beach cabanas rent for $15 per day and have a maximum capacity of 10.

“We hope Iowa workers plan to take time off and visit a state park this year,” says Coffelt. “The cure for a stressful day is literally a walk in the park.”

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