Appanoose receives Honey Creek inquiry response

·2 min read

Aug. 5—CENTERVILLE — The Appanoose County Board of Supervisors last month received several documents and responses to questions as they mull whether to take control of the Honey Creek Resort.

The supervisors on Thursday acknowledged receipt of the documents in a special meeting. They directed for Assistant County Attorney Alan Wilson to author and send a follow-up letter with some follow-up questions.

The Courier requested a copy of that letter but has not yet received it as of press time.

Officials did provide a July 13-dated letter from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to the county that detailed responses to nearly two dozen inquiries the supervisors had sent to the state.

The state provided annual financial reports for the resort, an overview of capital improvement plans and details on property reserves. The DNR also provided an estimated overview for probable future costs over the next 15 years.

The letter says that supervisors were also notified of one ongoing legal action involving Honey Creek, and another is expected.

In February, news broke that Delaware North, which the DNR contracts with to manage the resort, had advised state officials they would be ending the contract early. That caused the state to ponder the resort's future for several possible scenarios, including gifting the resort to Appanoose County.

The state hopes whatever the future may hold for the resort is locked in with enough time for the entity that ends up controlling Honey Creek Resort will have time to prepare for the 2023 recreational season.

The idea of transferring the resort to Appanoose County has risen to the top of the state's list. Selling the resort to a private entity would not be impossible but quite complicated due to parts of the resort being on federal land and other legal complications. The state land could only be sold if it was deemed not to have conservation value.

The roughly $58 million Honey Creek Resort was built at the existing state park of the same name, completed in 2008 during the Great Recession. The State of Iowa funded most of the construction through more than $35 million in bonds.

While the resort has had profitable years, it could not pay for itself and has spent several years with money losses.

The DNR had funneled more than $7 million to it before the Iowa Legislature in 2013 approved funds to clear the remaining debt. That action stopped the DNR subsidies, and currently, Delaware North's contract dictates it is responsible for any losses it may incur.

Kyle Ocker is the editor of the Ottumwa Courier and the Oskaloosa Herald. He can be reached at kocker@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.