State senator says Maquoketa Caves will open this spring - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

State senator says Maquoketa Caves will open this spring

State senator says Maquoketa Caves will open this spring

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MAQUOKETA (KWWL) -

An Iowa senator says the caves at Maquoketa State Park will reopen this spring for the first time in two years.

State Senator Tod Bowman announced Thursday that he is working with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources on legislation to reopen the caves.

The caves have been closed since the spring of 2010 when a bat disease called white-nose syndrome was spreading around the United States. While the disease does not affect humans, people helped spread the disease from cave to cave.

Senator Bowman's office says the number of visitors to Maquoketa State Park dropped from more than 200,000 visits in 2009 to about 40,000 a year, but now the senator's office is saying they have a solution to protecting the bat population while keeping the caves open.

"More details will be forthcoming but I want people in Maquoketa to know that all of the park will be open this spring with reasonable precautions to protect the local bat population," Bowman said. "The Iowa DNR believes they can reopen the caves while also protecting the bat population from white nose syndrome. I appreciate how responsive DNR officials have been. Credit also is due to the Maquoketa Caves Association which provided me with valuable information."

The Maquoketa Area Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Director Stacy Driscoll is pleased with the turn of events.

"Closing the caves was a blow to our local economy," Driscoll said. "We are just thrilled that Senator Bowman has been successful. We are ecstatic that those visitors will be coming back and contributing to our Main Street businesses again."

Bowman's office has not said when the details of his plan will be released.

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