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DNR report on Lake Macbride

SOLON– The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) held a meeting Wednesday, Feb. 28, at the Solon Public Library to discuss a range of issues concerning Lake Macbride State Park, including its upcoming 100th anniversary in 2020.
The 2,180-acre park features a 940-acre lake, 14.5 miles of trails, and 101 campsites. And, as of last year, one alcohol ban.
The park played host to over half a million visitors in 2017 (509,500), though many long-term visitors voiced concerns, as the last beach in Johnson County allowing alcohol until last year, it had become less of a family atmosphere.
The DNR representatives said that is beginning to change.
Nick Rocca, Park Ranger at the lake, and Ron Puettmann, the park’s manager, told a group of concerned citizens, in the library’s meeting room, they are both certified officers who patrol the park regularly. The recent ban keeps them busy.
“We do spend a lot of time at the beach now, enforcing that,” said Rocca. “Up until that went through, we were the only beach that allowed alcohol consumption in Johnson County.”
That had been the case now, Rocca said, for about 10 years or so. When Lake Macbride was the only park left to allow it.
“We very quickly became a popular destination to go and consume alcohol while they enjoyed the beach, as well.”
There is evidence this turned some families away. But the pair both indicated a corner was turned, and they are not in the battle alone.
Rocca noted he and Puettmann work very closely with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, and the state patrol has been very good at coming up and assisting.
In short, the park reps told those assembled, they are doing their best to keep everybody safe and provide a safe environment for people to recreate.
Puettmann echoed Rocca’s sentiments and spoke to the importance of preserving the region’s parks.
“It’s been said that Iowa state parks are some of the best real estate that’s left in the state of Iowa, and I guess I’d have to agree,” Puettmann confessed.
The pair’s efforts to protect the integrity of the parks appear to have been noticed.
“We’re starting to see families come back, so it’s definitely working, and I can’t wait for it to turn the corner and be a great environment again for families,” said Puettmann.
Puettmann and Rocca outlined other news items and accomplishments for Lake Macbride, including a planned extension of the Hoover Nature trail either in the spring or the summer, as well as ongoing efforts to plant trees and repair the road’s numerous potholes.
When the two DNR officials concluded their remarks, they asked Todd Coffelt of the State Parks Bureau, in Des Moines, if he had anything to add.
Coffelt, seated in the crowd, reminded those assembled, Iowa’s parks belong to the people.
“Everybody asks, ‘What can I do?’” Coffelt said.
That begins and, in a lot of cases, ends with a phone call to your local representatives, letting them know how you feel about local issues, said Coffelt. 
Coffelt said, “Sometimes representatives and senators appear at these meetings, and they will reinforce that if they hear the same topic from three or four people, they know it’s a priority. So I always want to end the meetings and say make sure you go home and make a phone call.”
Coffelt then thanked everyone for coming.
The pair opened the floor up for questions and comments.
One woman in attendance thanked the DNR officials for their efforts, and said the water quality at the lake looked to be the best it had been in 20 years.
Another asked when the beach would be closing this season, since the park experimented with an early evening closing time in response to a number of incidents.
“Once the alcohol ban went into effect, the beach now closes at 10:30,” said Rocca.
“Oh, good,” the woman replied. “That makes it good for people who work all day. Thank you.”
Another woman called the ban “a no-brainer,” and said she’d noticed a reduction in litter.
The DNR plans to make the meeting an annual occurrence.