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New plans to add inn at Potato Creek State Park

Published: May. 5, 2021 at 5:41 PM EDT
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NORTH LIBERTY, Ind. (WNDU) - There are bound to be some ‘happy campers’ in North Liberty once they figure out what’s in store for Potato Creek State Park in the new state budget.

Plans to build a new inn at Potato Creek have been on the drawing board for 20 years. Suddenly, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb says now is the time to act.

In April of 2001, renderings of what the inn (or lodge) would look like were released as part of a project feasibility study.

Not only has Indiana -not built- a new inn at a state park since 1939, it has spent the last 20-years trying and failing.

Circa 2006, no bidders stepped forward when private companies were given a chance to build and operate the inn.

Circa 2016, the state failed to raise enough money to fund the project by leasing excess space on state owned cell towers.

The state has been trying for so long to move the project, that some were wondering if they were still trying at all.

“I have to be honest. We were wondering,” said North Liberty Town Council President Randy Lemert, “So, we’ve always been hopeful.”

Today 16 News Now sat down with Lemert and Town Clerk Vicki Kitchen and played them the words those in North Liberty have been waiting so long to hear: Via a laptop we played the response Governor Holcomb gave yesterday when asked about the status of the inn project. “It’s going to happen,” Holcomb begins. “Fortunately, we’re in a financial position to where we can make it happen, so the department of natural resources are already working on this. Both Prophetstown and Potato Creek.”

Despite the long delay, the Town of North Liberty stands ready to extend utilities to the site—hopefully creating a recreational path in the process that would put the town within walking or biking distance of park patrons.

“It is in North Liberty,” Lemert said. “We expect it to have an economic impact for us. You know, people visiting our shops, people visiting our stores, you know, our downtown front so, I think it’s a win-win for everybody.”

“It means jobs,” said Vicki Kitchen. “I mean, I think it would mean lots of jobs if the plan still continues to have the inn, you know, the restaurant, and the other things they were talking about the previous plans that have been released. So, that’s huge for us.”

The state budget sets aside $550,000,000 that “may be used” to fund the Potato Creek inn and eight other specified projects, “after review by the budget committee.”

“Our state park lodges and inns are sold out well before we get to the holidays. So, they are, in some states, they’re revenue losers. In our state, they’re revenue generators and we’re trying to encourage people to get out and hike and bike,” Governor Holcomb concluded.

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