Five Island Lake Association
Communities throughout Iowa develop projects to attract visitors and potential homeowners and businesses. The results include museums, historical attractions, sporting venues, an emphasis on the arts, natural sites that are made to accommodate visitors and other unique ways to boost a city or town’s sustainability and vibrancy. Residents gain from tourists spending money at local establishments and attractions. And if that visit results in a new family moving to town or a new business opening, then everyone benefits.
Five Island Lake, a glacial lake that is unique in its five-mile length and number of islands, is a destination for fishing, recreation, camping, boating in the summer and snowmobiling in the winter. What is the value of that for the area? Does a lake generate dollars for the town?
Emmetsburg Chamber Executive Director Deb Hite says, “I give community tours for potential business hires and others visiting the area and people are always excited about the lake. Recently a person who toured said, ‘I don’t know if I will get the job, but I will begin to boat at Five Island.’ While it is hard to quantify the economic impact of the lake, it is easy to view on the weekends when vehicles pulling boats are at the convenience stores, the restaurants and the grocery stores.”
The Iowa Lakes Valuation Project was an economic study of the state’s lakes usage and the value Iowans place on water quality. It was funded by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and conducted by the Limnology Laboratory at Iowa State University. The multi-year study ended in 2009. According to the study Iowa lakes generate over $16.5 billion in annual spending by Iowans. Sixty percent of Iowa households (there are just over 1.2 million households) travel to a lake at least once a year. In the Emmetsburg area Iowans spent $5,765,912 yearly when visiting Five Island Lake.
The backdrop for The Shores, the two city campgrounds, the lake cabins, the Rockport development and the Five Island Trail is the lake. The new homes lining the lake shores pay property taxes to the city (Rockport was annexed), the campground users pay fees, the cabins are rented, events pay rent and catering. This is good economic and community development.
Tony Grandgenett, owner of Northland Auto and Marina at the east edge of Emmetsburg, explained that, “Northland originated in Humbolt and when we wanted another location we decided on Emmetsburg because of the lake. Then, our used auto business was more than the marina side. We recently expanded to a larger building and viewing lot because the marina side of the business has increased substantially due to new lake houses and more boaters each year. We currently employ four fulltime and two part time people but we could use more.”
Hite stated that when she attends conferences people are amazed that a town of 3900 has so much to offer the community. She proudly tells them that it is the lake that makes the difference.
Submitted by Diane Weiland
The FILA column will appear in local newspapers bi-monthly.