More than $8.5 million in improvements are either proposed or already scheduled for construction at Ponderosa State Park – considered the crown jewel in the Idaho state park system – to handle the park´s 81% growth in visitors in the past seven years, according to The Idaho Statesman.
Improvements include the addition of a 65-unit group facility for recreational vehicles.
Gov. Dirk Kempthorne outlined the plan for Ponderosa during his State of the State address in January. Kempthorne has said he hopes the plan will move the state´s fifth most popular park into the modern age of camping and make it more accessible to 12-month-a-year recreation, even for people who don´t camp.
The proposal includes:
* Construction of a $2.2 million, 65-unit group campground for recreational vehicles. The project includes a new park entrance, a welcoming center, an expanded day-use area and access to beachfront, bike and pedestrian lanes and remodeling the current visitors center into a Nordic center. Funding is in hand and construction is scheduled for May or June, depending on the weather.
* A $5.7 million regional administrative learning and retreat center for business meetings and family reunions. The Idaho Legislature needs to approve funding for this project. If it´s approved this session, construction can start in spring of 2006.
* A $572,000 renovation of the old Nazarene church camp into a modern cabin camp. The park took control of the church camp in 1998 when the church´s lease expired and was not renewed. Funding is already available, and construction is scheduled to begin in May or June, depending on weather.
All of the improvements were approved by the Idaho Park and Recreation Board in 1994 as part of the park´s general development plan.
The improvements at Ponderosa are just part of a long list of improvements that have been made in the past 10 years to other state parks. About $5.8 million in improvements have been done to Priest Lake, Farragut, Bruneau Dunes and Bear Lake state parks and City of Rocks.
“It´s now Ponderosa´s turn,” said Dennis Coyle, manager of Ponderosa State Park, which is located on a peninsula on Payette Lake. “We need to build a group facility for RVs. It´s a huge demand.”