FORT DODGE, What to do with an abandoned Gypsum Mine near Ft . Dodge? Some local off road enthusiasts had an idea, take the old surface mine, and using it for off highway vehicles. That would be motorcycles, ATVs, and side by sides. The idea evoked a meeting of some attorney's over the main concern, liability in a often times a dangerous sport.
Dennis Plautz, CEO of the Greater Ft Dodge Growth Alliance said an initial meeting was held with the attorneys. The meeting went from, "no way, to at the end, maybe this will work," Plautz told the gathering Friday at Gypsum City.
The project took 14 years to pull together, involving a collaboration of local and state government, and local business leaders. The main obstacle was a change needed in Iowa law to assure that gypsum companies would not be responsible for liabilities on the properties in the event of an accident. The ground for the park is leased from the gypsum companies. Gypsum City OHV Park is 700 acres and 45 miles of trails. In August a new section of the park was open, making it larger than all other OHV Parks in Iowa Combined. Plautz said it took $5 million dollars, and 24 grants to make the park happen.
David Downing of the Iowa DNR is the OHV Program Manager for the State. "For the OHV folks, this is our destination park, comparing to to Honey Creek Resort. "We have a little over 45,000 registered machines, in the state," said Downing. "And, it's growing every year," he added.
Matt Cosgrove of the Webster County Conservation Board is responsible for operation and maintaining the park. He credits the local off highway people for coming up with the idea, to "develop this facility and be able to use this property that didn't really have any other value after it had been mined," he said. Cosgrove said the park offers riding for all levels, including kids. "Riding opportunities not just for an afternoon, but for a day or a couple of days," said Cosgrove. The park also has a moto-cross track, and is developing a modern 33 site campground so those with OHV's can stay the night or weekend.