POLK CITY, Iowa — The derecho of 2020 left behind an immense amount of damage across Iowa, including at Big Creek State Park.
Park ranger Jeff Poen vividly remembers the night of the storm, and the mess it immediately caused. “You can’t prepare for a storm like that, I’ve never experienced anything like that before,” Poen said “On the lake, there were probably six to eight foot waves crashing on the beach.”
The high winds knocked down numerous trees in the park, some of which have remained toppled over since the storm. However, Poen said the park has cleared most of the trees from the most popular areas of Big Creek, including the beach.
“We lost twenty shade trees on the beach that were heavily used in days like today, where it’s 90 degrees,” Poen said. “We just sat down and looked at our heavy use areas, put those at the top of the list, and kept plugging away at it every day.”
The park has planted new trees on the beach, but it will take years for them to grow as tall as the forestry it replaced. Additionally, staff is preparing to find a contractor to use heavy machinery on some of the remaining downed trees.
Poen said the cleanup work was made possible through grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA.)
He said Big Creek State Park has returned to normal in time for summer, with visitors already flocking there in the warmer weather. However, he said the memories and scars of the derecho’s destruction are impossible to forget.
“It was pretty amazing to see what Mother Nature can do, and I hope I never have to experience that again,” Poen said.