by: Tom Hohman, IPA President
As many of you know, on March 31st the campground at McCormick’s Creek State Park was hit by a devastating tornado. The tornado destroyed buildings, overturned campers, uprooted trees, and left a 300 yard wide path of destruction through the park, including the Wolf Cave nature preserve adjacent to the campground. Two campers died in the storm. The death toll could have been higher if not for the actions of a park employee who warned campers of the impending event and encouraged them to take safety in a campground restroom building.
I recently had an opportunity to see the devastation for myself. The campground is totally destroyed. Downed trees have been removed from the roads, allowing access to survey the damage. However, the area remains off limits to the general public, out of safety concerns from damaged and partially downed trees.
The campground will be rebuilt. In the waning days of the recently completed state legislature $5 million was quickly added for this rebuild. However, it will take time. DNR will first need to clear the downed timber and remaining damaged trees from the campground, a huge task that will need to be contracted to a private company. Then a full evaluation of issues with remaining infrastructure (roads, buried power lines, water lines) can be finalized, design plans developed, and construction begun.
The new campground will eventually be completed and ready for the public to again enjoy. However, it will not look the same. Gone will be the canopy of large trees that were a hallmark of the campground. Historic restrooms that seemed to be a part of the landscape will be replaced with more modern ones.
Nature will recover, and the canopy will return, both in the campground and the adjacent park areas. Remember that in nature’s world this type of occurrence is common. Large old trees that we loved will be replaced by new trees, trees that will take advantage of the increased sunlight. Over time the “modern” restrooms will again blend in with the landscape. This will all take place on a different time scale than we would like, but it will occur.
While we will never see that area of McCormick’s Creek the same again, there is still much to enjoy. Fortunately the remainder of the park was largely undamaged. The inn is still open. Picnic areas are open. Remaining trails not traversing the tornado damage area are open.
Eventually, as downed and safety concern trees are removed from the remaining trails, all of them will be open. At that point park users will be able to see the devastation that occurred to the woods. They will also be able to watch the transition of these areas as they recover, knowing that someday they will again match the splendor of the remainder of the park.
Photo: Comfort station B in McCormick’s Creek State Park-Photo by Rich Janzaruk, Bloomington Herald Times