Listen to our full interview with George North, Allison Park Board president here:
Camping at Wilder Park Allison Iowa
Camp Iowa: I’m talking with George North today. He’s the Allison Park Board President. We’re going to talk about Wilder Park today. Where are you guys located at, George?
George: This is a municipal park, city-owned park, in Allison, Iowa. We’re on the junction of Highway 3 and 14, about halfway between Hampton and Waverly, Iowa. This is a town of 1,026 people.
Camp Iowa: How long has Wilder Park been there?
George: Land was purchased in 1992 and development started in ’93, so this year is our 20th year of development.
Camp Iowa: Is there camping in the park?
George: We have 54 RV sites and we have 8 or 10 tent sites. That’s gradually increased over the last 10 years, probably. The first 14 sites were put in probably in 1998, 1999. They’ve been in about maybe 12 or 13 years, 14 of them. And then we’ve gradually added the other sites over the last – we’ve been at 54, though, for a couple of years now.
Camp Iowa: That’s a really good size. What are the main reasons that people come and stay there?
George: Because we have a lot of amenities. It’s just a nice place, #1. The trees we’ve planted over those years, we’ve planted 15,000 trees. It was a farm with a pond and one tree when we got it in ’92. So we planted a lot of trees, we’ve got about 17 acres of prairie. We’re on a bike trail, Rolling Prairie Bike Trail is where you come off of the Rolling Prairie Bike Rail into the park. You can. We have about a mile and a quarter inter-park asphalt trail.
Camp Iowa: How long is the Rolling Prairie?
George: Rolling Prairie currently is paved from Shell Rock to the Allison parcel, which is about 17 miles.
Camp Iowa: Wow.
George: I just read in the paper, and they’ve applied for some grants to go west, and the county west of us, Franklin County, they’re extending it. By next year, they are supposed to be to the county line. But that’s not an asphalt trail. Some of it is, but most of it’s fine rock, rolled rock trail. Anyway, we’ve got biking, hiking, walking. A lot of walkers go out there from town. We’ve got two fishing ponds, two ponds that are stocked and there’s fishing there.
Camp Iowa: What kind of fish?
George: Mostly bass and bluegill and catfish. It’s fished heavily. Bike trails. We’ve got an 18-hole disc golf course. We’ve got an 18 embedded putt-putt mini golf course. We’ve got a playground, horseshoes, basketball, tetherball. So we have a lot. And all the amenities, there are three shelter houses. Most of the bases covered. The bulk of our clientele probably come within about a 50-mile radius.
Camp Iowa: What’s your favorite activity in the area?
George: What’s my favorite activity? I only work here. [laughs] No, I like to do a lot of those things. A big attraction for us, actually, particularly in the spring of the year, is we have severe weather shelters. As far as we know, we’re one of three parks in Iowa that have bona fide, certified severe weather shelters.
Camp Iowa: Wow. What do those look like?
George: They’re big steel tanks buried in a hill. In 2006, we excavated 30,000 cubic feet out of the old pond, the original pond, and then we piled all those dredgings up into a sledding hill and buried these tanks in this hill. We created a sledding hill for wintertime and then, like I said, we have storm shelters.
Camp Iowa: Wow. How many people can fit in there?
George: About 150. About 50 to 60 people per tank.
Camp Iowa: Are those open to check out in the summer, if you want to take a look at them?
George: Oh, they’re just available, yeah. You can go in them any time. We do seal them in the wintertime. But yeah, through the camping season, they’re open. Absolutely.
Camp Iowa: Interesting.
George: We also have a shower house. That was done in about 2005, maybe. I’d have to look at that grant. And then another building that has men’s and women’s bathrooms in it. No showers in that building, but that was the original building.
Camp Iowa: Sounds like there’s quite a bit to do in the area down there.
George: Yeah. And then in the summertime, starting in June, actually, on Saturday nights, we have entertainment, and on Wednesday nights through July and August. We just finished up, a weekend ago, last Saturday actually, with our final – had a country western band. Had about 250 people there. On one of the shelter houses, we built kind of an entertainment stage venue so that we could do that kind of thing.
Camp Iowa: Sounds like a lot of fun.
George: Yeah, that’s gone over really well. That’s gone over really well.
Camp Iowa: So if someone were to come into town and camp, and they picked the right weekend, they’d have some live music too.
George: That’s exactly right. In July and August, it’d be on Wednesday nights and the weekend in June. And the one in September is on the weekend too. It’s usually the weekend after Labor Day.
Camp Iowa: That sounds great. Anything else you want to add?
George: In the RV park, if you camp three nights, we give you Wednesday night free. We’re very affordable. Compared to most, we try to be a very affordable entity. Except for the RV parking and the tent camping, everything else is free. We do not charge rent for the shelter houses. There’s no amenity that is charged for other than the parking. And that’s currently $12 for electrical and $16 for full hook-up, and I think $8 for tent campsites.
Camp Iowa: Very reasonable.
George: Yeah. We’re very affordable, and we are not in any flood plains or anything. This year, half the campgrounds in this area were flooded out this summer, and we don’t have that issue at all. We’re high and dry, and people can depend on the place to be open. We have about 20 of the sites that are reserveable in advance; the rest of them are take your chances. But you can make a reservation in advance. For people that are coming from a distance, you want to make sure you’ve got a site.
On the weekends this year, we’ve had average about 90% occupancy. Obviously, holiday weekends were overflow, and we’ve been close. We only had three openings I think last weekend, of the 54 sites. So we’ve had a really, really good summer.
Camp Iowa: If somebody wanted to make a reservation, is there a website they could go to, or a phone number they can call?
George: They would call City Hall – let’s see. It’s 319-267-2245. The clerks at City Hall take care of all of our reservation issues.
Camp Iowa: That sounds great. Thank you so much for taking some time out of your afternoon to explain a little bit about Wilder Park.
George: You go on Google Earth and go to Allison, and in the southeast of the town itself, you can pull that easily. You can see the RV sites and the whole nine yards.
Camp Iowa: Cool.
George: Okay. If you need any other information at any time, let me know.
Camp Iowa: All right. Thank you so much, George.
Photos courtesy of Wilder Park, Allison Iowa