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Repairs begin after floodwaters wash away park

GRAND TOWER (WSIL) — Crews are already working and repairing the damage in Grand Tower after floodwaters nearly washed away an entire park. 

Devil’s Backbone Park is feeling the effect of what the water did to their bottom line. 

The park now needs more than $150,000 to get back up and running again. 

The Mississippi River is back in it’s banks in Grand Tower but the park board members are left with destruction. 

"We have no water, no power and no sewer," park board member Donnie Davis said. "We were kind of hoping the river stages were going to be wrong because there were so many breaches up north."

Since March, Davis said they have been dealing with standing water throughout the 15-acre park, but now they have to clean up the mess.

Davis and Park Board President Will Nicholson have been moving sand, laying rock and cleaning restrooms for the past week. 

Davis said there is more than 50,000 tons of sand sitting throughout the park they have to move.

Davis showed News 3 the painted lines on the showerhouse where floodwaters have reached over the years. The most recent line was from 2016. 

Watered covered the park for more than 115 days. During that time the water completely washed out their 85 campsites, showerhouses, bathrooms and asphalt roads. 

"Right now, we figure we are out about $45,000 just in the revenue that we bring in to this point," Davis said. 

The campground opened for three days before the picnic tables were restacked and the park was closed. 

"We rely on the big weekends because we always have a functions," Davis said. 

Normally there are more than 60 campers using the park during the weekends in the summer.

The revenue from those big weekends helps pay for the annual homecoming in September, an event that could be canceled due to the condition of the park.

"It’s all about the kids," Davis said. "Seeing those smiles on those rides and being able to do that for free is what it’s all about. If we can’t have that, it’s a disappointment."

The Homecoming is a free public event with free carnival rides for kids and families. 

The event takes place the third weekend in September. 

Davis said members are not paid for the work they do at the park, but seeing campers enjoy the park is worth the work. 

"We do this out of the kindness of our heart for the kids in the community, the people in this town and the campers that come from all over," Davis said. 

Davis said they are waiting to hear if they will get any help from FEMA. 

"If we don’t get it, we won’t open," Davis said. "We will have to use what funds we can get from fundraising and what not. We would like to see some campers in here and get some revenue going."

The park board is supposed to meet with Jackson County officials, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and FEMA on Aug. 12. 

News 3 will keep you updated on when the park will reopen. 

If you are in need of free dirt or sand, contact Donnie Davis at 618-713-6136.

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News 3 Staff

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