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Kansas Parks Recover from Calamities

March 20, 2013 by · Comments Off on Kansas Parks Recover from Calamities 

Red pin marks the location of Cheney State Park.

After two years of drought, extreme heat and blue-green algae outbreaks, Kansas state park personnel are hoping for better weather and better attendance this spring and summer.

Managers at the two state parks closest to Wichita said they actually found some good from the bad conditions left from last year, the Wichita Eagle reported.

Cheney State Park

“We took advantage of some opportunities we may never again see in our lifetime,” Ryan Stucky, Cheney State Park manager, said of record low-water levels. “The only other time Cheney was this low was when they were filling it, when it was first made.”

Stucky said the lake spent most of the winter about 7 1/2 feet below normal, though it rose about five inches after recent snows and rain.

The lake has one usable boat ramp, by the marina on the east side of the lake.

“We’d had some damage to our boat ramps, and this was really our first opportunity to fix them,” Stucky said. “We were able to pour some more concrete.”

The receding shoreline also allowed Stucky’s staff to access areas that have needed attention.

“We’ve about cleaned up all of the debris from the tornado in 2005,” he said. “We got a lot done on our shore stabilization projects, where we can’t normally work when the lake’s full.”

Repairs were also done on some damaged campsites normally near the water’s edge. Now, Stucky said, heavy equipment can access such places without getting stuck.

Park staff has also worked at identifying and removing the many trees that have died after two years of drought. They will eventually be replaced.

Such work has made the park, and the park’s budget, both look a bit better, too.

“The nice thing is that cleaning up is something that doesn’t really cost a lot,” Stucky said. “We only spent $2,700 (mostly for concrete) to fix the boat ramps.”

Though it doesn’t involve park personnel or funds, Stucky said the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages Cheney Reservoir, will use the low water time to refurbish an 800-foot-long jetty and install a covered fishing dock.

El Dorado State Park

A view of the El Dorado Reservoir in central Kansas, looking northwest. The largest Kansas state park, El Dorado’s four units sprawl across 4,000 acres along the eastern and western shores of the reservoir.

Seth Turner, El Dorado State Park manager, said his lake is currently down about 4 1/2 feet, with five of the seven ramps in the state park open for use. Four of which can handle a boat of about any normal size.

Still, park ranger Randy Just said they hope to bring in some equipment to reach out and deepen the water at the base of the ramps while they have the opportunity.

During a tour Thursday morning, Just and maintenance supervisor Aaron Groom noted some areas to be fixed before visitation numbers spike in a few weeks.

At several places, the low water lets them deal with problems left by Kansas’ largest rodent.

“That would be from a beaver,” Groom said, as he looked at a hole about 18 inches at the edge of a boat ramp. “They can really do a lot of damage when they dig into banks, and under docks and ramps.”

Turner said his staff spent much of this winter building a new archery range near the start of the Teter Nature Trail, just south of the lake’s dam. Funding was provided for by a specific grant from The Mule Deer Foundation.

The range has 11 paved shooting lanes with targets out to 50 yards. Crossbows and broadheads are not allowed.

Most of the shooting is done into square backstops. A raised shooting platform simulates shooting from a tree stand.

A special range for children 14 and under has three dimensional targets of a whitetail buck, an alligator and a dinosaur. Turner said a state park permit is needed to park in the range’s parking lot, but not for shooting.

There’s no charge for using the range, though a metal drop box collects donations for the range’s upkeep.

Just hopes to get the dirt between the paved lanes seeded with grass in the near future.

So far the range seems to be a popular addition to the park.

“We were out there plowing snow and we had people out there shooting,” Turner said. “I think people are really going

 

Free Entry to Kansas State Parks on March 9th

March 6, 2013 by · Comments Off on Free Entry to Kansas State Parks on March 9th 

Kansas state parks will be free on Saturday (March 9) as part of a statewide open house.

Park users can take advantage of low off-season camping permit prices. March 31 is the last day annual camping permits are priced at off-season discounts. On April 1, the prices increase to their regular prime-season levels, WDAF-TV, Kansas City, reported.

Visitors can purchase annual camping permits and make cabin or campsite reservations during the open houses, as well.

For pricing information and to purchase permits online, go to the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) website, www.ksoutdoors.com. For online permit purchases, click the License/Permits icon. For campsite and cabin reservations, click the Reservations icon.

Kansas motor vehicle owners can now buy an annual park vehicle permit as part of their vehicle registration process.

The permit – called a Kansas State Parks Passport – will cost $15 (county treasurers can elect to add a $0.50 service fee). This lower-price, non-transferable permit will be available only during the vehicle registration process at a motor vehicle registration office, through the online vehicle registration site (www.kswebtags.org), or when registering by mail.

The Kansas State Parks Passport will expire when the vehicle registration expires a year later.

Click here to see a list of of Kansas state parks along with special events happening this Saturday.

 

 

Kansas State Parks Revenue Up 8.8% in 2012

August 1, 2012 by · Comments Off on Kansas State Parks Revenue Up 8.8% in 2012 

Kansas State parks headed into 2012 in need of good park attendance to make up for lower visitation and revenues last summer.

Alan Stark, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism parks regional supervisor, said the combination of 100-plus degree days and long periods of blue-green algae warnings lowered park income more than $1 million last year.

Some state parks in northern Kansas also suffered from high water last spring and summer.

Even with this summer’s heat, things have been better, the Wichita Eagle reported.

“It’s been a good year,” Stark said. “Everything went well through the spring. Hot weather now is slowing things down, but this is Kansas, that’s not abnormal.”

He said revenue for January through June was about $3.4 million, compared to $3.1 million during the same months in 2011.

Stark is hopeful this year’s blue-green algae outbreaks will continue to not be as severe as last year. He is concerned that some lake levels may drop to where some state park boat ramps aren’t usable.

In the spring, the Kansas legislature helped when it added about $800,000 to the park budget to help soothe some of last year’s losses.

The new reservation system that debuted in April also gave parks a financial boost in the spring, as people hustled to reserve sites for later in the year.

Stark said the parks have also tried to keep spending down.

“Things are tight, we’re used to that,” he said. “We’ve held some (hiring) positions open for a long time, but now we’re starting to fill some of those positions.”

He also said seasonal help will probably be working fewer weeks this summer.

Stark said the parks are saving money because they seldom have to mow.

“We’ll just have to see what the summer brings,” Stark said. “I think it will be a good year, but certainly not a record breaker.”

 

 

Legislative Delays Strain Kansas State Park Funding

April 13, 2012 by · Comments Off on Legislative Delays Strain Kansas State Park Funding 

Visitors to Kansas’ parks will find the parks open but some of the grass may need mowing.

The Kansas Legislature has not passed the supplemental budget bill and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) is cutting back on some maintenance work to keep the parks open statewide, the Pratt Tribune reported.

Unseasonably warm temperatures allowed parks to open early this year ahead of the usual April 15 opening date, said Linda Lanterman, KDWPT acting director of Kansas State Parks.

Most of the park revenue is generated from Memorial Day to Labor Day and they don’t generate much income in March and April.

The department is borrowing money from the park road improvement fund to pay employees until the supplemental funding is improved, said Ron Kaufman, KDWPT director of information services.

The department is also holding off on seasonal hires until the supplemental budget is approved as well as some purchases, Lanterman said.

Once the budget is passed, the funds borrowed from road improvement will be returned.

The supplemental budget bill includes $800,000 earmarked for KDWPT that is less than the original $1.2 million requested in Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget.

With the $800,000 plus the park fees and funds from the state general fund, KDWPT should meet the expenses for the park system this year, Kaufman said.

“We hope the legislature will act on it and give us what we need,” Kaufman said.

Although the Legislature is not expected to pass the supplemental budget until late in the session, the parks will continue to remain open with some reduction in maintenance like mowing grass.

Tight finances are not new at KDWPT. The department has always run a conservative ship and will continue to do so.

“We’ve done more with less for a long time,” Lanterman said.

The request for supplemental funding was made to make up for a shortfall in funds in the 2011 season that was plagued with algae bloom in some parks and extended periods of excessive heat that kept patrons away from the parks.

The heat had a big impact on the park attendance during the high traffic holidays on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day that are traditionally the heaviest visitor days for the parks, Kaufman said.

Flooding was also an issue at some parks when the Army Corps of Engineers held floodwaters from the upper Mississippi in reservoirs to prevent flooding down stream. This water ended up flooding some of the campgrounds.

The floodwaters were a result of heavy snow melt in states to the north.

Right now the prospects for the 2012 park season look good. If they can avoid another algae bloom and not have the extended days with temperatures over 100 degrees, the summer could be good.

An unusual benefit for the park is high gas prices. With gas approaching $4 a gallon many families will choose to stay closer to home and that means more patrons to the state parks, Lanterman said.

Kansas State Parks Run Geocaching Contest

May 8, 2009 by · Comments Off on Kansas State Parks Run Geocaching Contest 

Outdoor enthusiasts looking for the next great adventure will find it in a geocaching contest this summer at Kansas state parks, according to the Kansas City InfoZine

From May 1 to Nov. 1, each state park and some other Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) locations have two caches hidden. The coordinates of the first cache site are posted on the KDWP website, www.kdwp.state.ks.us. Participants will use hand-held global positioning systems (GPS) to find and open the first cache, where they will find the coordinates of the second cache site.

Upon finding the second cache site, the participant will sign a log sheet and take a certificate to turn in to that park office. Then they will receive a park-specific location ink pen and the official statewide KDWP Geocaching Entry Form. Entry forms can be validated at all KDWP park and regional offices, as well as the Pratt Operations Office, for each second cache found. 

Prizes will be awarded based first on how many points are earned. Every second geocache found at each participating location will be worth one point. Prizes will be awarded on a point and time system after the contest ends Nov. 1. 

First-place prizes (maximum of 50 winners) will be a choice between two nights in a KDWP camping cabin or one annual camping permit for 2010. The first 50 participants to earn all of the 31 points and submit their forms win a first-place prize. 

Those who earn 31 points but mail their forms in after the first 50 will receive second-place prizes, a choice between one night in a camping cabin or a 14-day camping permit for 2010. Two nights camping and utilities will be awarded for third place winners. 

This is the second year of this new outdoor recreation opportunity for Kansas Wildlife and Parks, one that may introduce many new patrons to state parks and other KDWP areas, as well as provide new activities for regular customers.

Kansas Prison Inmates Build State Park Cabins

April 29, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Cabins at Kansas’ state parks and lakes are so popular that many visitors can’t get a reservation.

Rentals of the 70 available cabins increased 155% last year, according to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, the Hutchinson News.

Most of the visitors enjoying the modern cabins might be surprised to learn they were built by inmates at three state correctional facilities as part of a program to teach inmates job skills.

But the parks department is lucky if it can get a dozen cabins a year from the correctional facilities, and budget cuts have also hurt the program, Mark Stock, the department’s cabin coordinator.

The parks department doesn’t spend any taxpayer money on the cabin program and state budget cuts have affected the prison education programs. Because the parks department wants to have 150 cabins at state parks and reservoirs in the next five years, it is looking for other financing.

Officials solicited bids from home contractors for building them, he said, but he stressed that the inmate program will not be stopped anytime soon.

“We will continue to have corrections build cabins for us,” he said. “But we would like to get more cabins out there.”

The cabins include air conditioning and heating and a kitchen with a microwave, stove and refrigerator. They sleep five to six. Rental rates vary at each lake.

“It’s a chance to get away and enjoy nature without roughing it too much,” said Linda Kootz, who works at Kanopolis State Park, where there are two deluxe cabins.

Only four days are still available in May, with only six days open in July.

“That’s how popular they are,” Kootz said. “(The inmates) do amazing work, and people just love them.”

Doug Haskins, sales manager for Liberty Homes of Yoder, said he met with Stock and wildlife and parks Secretary Mike Hayden last Monday to discuss a bid and look at a future cabin site at Sand Hills State Park near Hutchinson.

“We’re submitting a proposal next week,” Haskins said. “Sure we’re interested in it. It’s business, and it is in our home state.”
One cabin can cost about $40,000 to build, Stock said.

“The public is demonstrating the demand for these,” he said. “With the economy, more people are staying closer to home. A lot of people want to go camping, but they don’t want to sleep in a tent, don’t want to sleep on the ground, don’t have an RV, and this is a great option for them to be at the lake.”

Initially, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks officials enclosed several picnic areas to turn them into rustic cabins. But with campers seeking more amenities, the parks department entered a partnership in 2005 with Kansas Wildscape, a nonprofit conservation organization.

Wildscape borrows money for construction and cabin rental receipts help pay off the loans.

Meanwhile, the Southeast Kansas Education Service Center at Greenbush had a program at the Hutchinson prison teaching inmates construction skills by building homes for low-income families.

“It was the perfect fit,” Stock said. “From a correctional standpoint, it is educational. They are trying to teach these people a skill and the cabin is a byproduct of the education.”

Hutchinson Correctional Facility inmates began constructing the cabins in 2006.

One of about two dozen inmates in the program is Stephen Smallwood, who is serving a sentence for voluntary manslaughter at Hutchinson Correctional Facility.

He said being part of the program helps him control his anger.

“I have more confidence in myself,” the 51-year-old said. “I’m more ambitious. And it’s helped me stay mellow.”

The 20th cabin, which Smallwood helped build, goes to Milford Lake in May, said Tim Turner, the program’s lead instructor, employed through the Greenbush training program.

Inmates who go through the program graduate and receive national certification, he said.

Turner said about 80% of those in the program have never had a job. The first few months seem like a battle, but eventually that changes, he said.

“They start to love coming to work — seeing they’re accomplishing something,” he said.

The skills can come in handy after inmates leave prison.

“Inmates can walk into the job market and say, ‘Hey, I’m certified in these trades,”‘ Stock said. “They’re taking their families out to the state parks and telling them, ‘I worked on this cabin, I put in this cabinetry, I built this floor.’ They have a sense of ownership.”

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