HARDIN COUNTY NAVIGATION
steamboat rock: outdoors outfitter
In conversations with community members, the pride in the county’s natural resources quickly became apparent. Residents and visitors alike embrace the outdoors year round. However, the county has yet to maximize the impact their natural resources can have on the local economy.
While Rock-n-Row Adventures offers tubing, camping, and other summer activities, no entity in Hardin County offers bike, canoe, and fishing equipment rental. The lack of an outdoors outfitter hinders quick, easy access to the full array of the county’s natural resources and inhibits growth in the local economy. If an outdoors outfitter located in Hardin County, it would not only fill a gap but also support other components of the local economy; a study from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance found that every $100 spent at local independent stores generated $45 of secondary local spending compared to $14 for chain stores.
The Little River General Store is located in Lanesboro, Minnesota, population 739. The General Store has been open for 30 years, renting a variety of equipment out to support fitness and fun. The store buys all new equipment at the beginning of each season and offers people the opportunity to buy any of their equipment rather than just renting it.
The outfitter should offer a variety of rentals, tours, and items for purchase to maximize its customer base. Retail items could include clothing, equipment, accessories, and basic supplies, while rentals could include a mix of bicycles, canoes, kayaks, fishing rods, and other equipment. Given the close proximity of Rock-n-Row, the outfitter should not include tube rentals.
The tours should be another tool for the outfitter to make the outdoors more accessible for Hardin County residents and visitors alike. Initially, the tours should include bike adventures, paddle adventures, and a combination thereof. In the future, the outfitter should expand these offerings based on demand and profitability possibilities.
The outfitter should be located on the west edge of Steamboat Rock on River Road South. The target site features two old granary structures that the owners would like to restore and repurpose. The owners envision short-term accommodations in the smaller building (3,612 SF) and then a small woodworking studio (1,000 SF) and the outfitter (6,688 SF) in the larger building.
In addition to a restoration opportunity, the site is adjacent to the Iowa River Trail. When complete, the 34-mile trail will stretch from Steamboat Rock to Marshalltown. The site is just south of Pine Ridge Park, a 131.9 acre county park with timber and prairie land, and an existing low-head dam lies between the park and contemplated site. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has held preliminary discussions about mitigating this dam, which ranks high in its relative risk analysis. If the dam mitigation moves forward, it will open up another unique amenity in Hardin County less than a quarter mile from the outfitter.