Prairie Creek

Three people opposed to the county loaning money for campground development at Prairie Creek Recreation Area near Maquoketa shared their opinions during a recent public hearing.

Dave Veach, Darwin Lyon and Dave Miller all expressed opposition to backing the up-to-$2.5 million loan from the county’s general fund, saying they would bring a petition to oppose the vote if the supervisors approve it.

A petition calling for the bond to go to a vote would require the signature of 10 percent of the voters in the most recent election, in this case Tuesday’s election.

Jackson County supervisors asked for more numbers on the issue.

Jackson County Conservation director Daryl Parker said he is confident that “realistic” expectations of revenue from proposed new campgrounds and cabins at Prairie Creek would pay back payments of $130,000 to $140,000 each year. The agreement asks for the county’s general fund to act as co-signer on the loan.

“I’ve been in this business for 34 years,” Parker said. “I’m confident that we can make this payment.”

County conservation estimated annual income from the developments at $208,200.

Revenues from county conservation camping at Spruce Creek and South Sabula, boat slip rentals at Spruce Creek, and other revenues generated by county conservation already go into the county’s general fund. The boating and camping revenues top $200,000 on a good year, though they vary significantly due to flooding.

This conversation could lead to creative alternative financing, supervisors said.

Another source of conservation revenue to the county is through timber sales, most recently a sale of $92,000 worth of walnut trees. Parker said the county has had “probably the most aggressive forest management plan in the state” for about 20 years, planting thousands of trees and harvesting some from county conservation property.

County Supervisor Jack Willey suggested using the county’s revolving loan fund to pay for the campground and cabins. The fund charges 1 percent interest, he said, less than most counties and less than the loan proposal currently on the table.