NEOLA — Come spring, Arrowhead Park in Neola will offer all the trappings of home in the outdoors.
The county park is installing three fully-furnished cabins that will feature a full kitchen, bathroom, furnace and central air. Each will have a balcony, with two cabins ranch style and the third a loft.
“They’re basically like a house,” Pottawattamie County Conservation Executive Director Mark Shoemaker said.
The current cabins on site feature a single room with a “motel-style” heating and cooling unit, with no running water, Shoemaker said.
“They’re wanting a little more amenities to them,” Park Ranger Dave Fischer said of the feedback they’ve received from park users.
The longtime park ranger noted, for example, groups that rent a communal lodge at the park for a large gathering often asked for hotel options. Maybe they didn’t have a tent or camper, maybe they just didn’t want to camp. But regardless, the park wanted to give people the object to stay on the grounds while still having access to modern amenities.
“I think the cabins are going to bring more bigger family groups,” Fischer said.
Arrowhead has 52 RV sites and a bevy of tent sites, including areas around the lake where anyone can pitch a tent. There had been three primitive cabins, two remain, with one replaced by a modern cabin.
“It’s meeting a demand,” Shoemaker said of the new cabins.
County conservation officials spoke with leaders at parks across the state that have modern cabins for feedback.
“We talked to counties in all four corners of the state, they love ‘em,” Fischer said. “They’re doing fantastic.”
Shoemaker said county research shows “people are gravitating toward the modern cabins.”
The county did dirt work and had a cement foundation and basement installed, Fischer said. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the pre-built cabins were placed on top of the foundations by a crane.
Shoemaker said the cabins cost $500,000, with additional costs for setting the concrete foundations, septic installation, electric work, dirt work and other work to get the cabins ready, along with ongoing maintenance. The county put in $525,000 on the project, with the Iowa West Foundation granting $116,666 and the Pottawattamie Conservation Foundation kicking in $31,000 and in-kind contributions.
“They’ll pay for themselves in time,” Fischer said.
The Iowa West money came as part of grant funding from the foundation for a regional cabin project in Pottawattamie, Mills and Harrison Counties, Shoemaker said, noting Golden Hills Resource Conservation and Development and the Loess Hills Missouri River Region working on the grant.
There’s still plenty of work to be done, Fischer said. And the county is currently working on rates for overnight stays at the cabins, which are tentatively slated to open by April 1, contractor schedules and weather permitting.
The existing cabins at Arrowhead were built in 2000. Fischer said ever since the long-term goal has been to add modern cabins, a goal that is now being met. He said they’ll add to the amenities offered at the park, pairing nicely with the fishing, paddle boating, canoeing and hiking that hundreds or thousands of visitors enjoy each year.
“It’s just one of those things we’ve been wanting to do for years. They’ll work,” said Fischer, who started at Arrowhead in 1993. “Get people out to our beautiful park.”