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Current Briefs for RV Parks and Campgrounds

September 17, 2013 by · Comments Off on Current Briefs for RV Parks and Campgrounds 

Maurice K. Goddard, father of the Pennsylvania State Park system

PENNSYLVANIA

From the Patriot-News, Harrisburg:

A multi-year project to raise awareness of the man that many refer to as the “father of Pennsylvania’s modern state park system,” the late Maurice K. Goddard, has been awarded the 2013 President’s Award from the National Association of State Park Directors.

Goddard served as one of the state’s leading advocates for conservation and the environment in the administrations of five governors from 1955-1979. During his tenure, the state park system doubled to 90 parks, fulfilling his vision of “a state park within 25 miles of every Pennsylvanian.”

Click here to read the entire story.

NEW MEXICO

From the Cibola Beacon, Grants:

“We had to close the campground early because of vandalism,” reported Mount Taylor District Ranger Matt Reidy on Sept. 12.

The district is part of the Cibola National Forest and Grassland and provides five camping facilities for outdoor enthusiasts including hunters.

Apparently around the time of the Labor Day holiday one or more people destroyed the fee collection tube, often referred to as the “Iron Ranger.”

“Whoever did this used a heavy duty chain and a vehicle to pull the fee tube and its concrete pedestal out of the ground,” explained Reidy. “It was a malicious act.”

The facility has 15 sites and there is no limit to the number of campers per site. The district collects $5 per night per campsite, according to the ranger.

“We were forced to close the Coal Mine campground early this year because there was no way to collect the fees,” said Reidy.

The district has five campgrounds: Lobo Canyon, Coal Mine, Ojo Redondo, McGaffey, and Quaking Aspen. These facilities have been popular with hunters for decades, according to several public lands officials.

The District opens these seasonal campgrounds on Mother’s Day weekend each May and closes them by Sept. 15 explained the ranger.

“We are locking the gates today, Sept. 16,” said the ranger.

“Someone’s disrespect for property has forced us to close Coal Mine early,” emphasized Reidy. “We had to make this closure because there is no way to collect the camping fees.

NEBRASKA

From WOWT-TV, Omaha:

Last month, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission announced it would close nearly 30 state-run parks until next spring to deal with budget woes.

Now, the agency says community leaders are stepping up to keep some of those parks open.

The commission says local leaders have committed resources to keep open Pelican Point, Oliver Reservoir, Rock Creek and Cottonwood Lake state recreation areas. They are among the 29 state park areas targeted for temporary closure.

In addition, community leaders are working to provide staffing and funding to reinstate events this fall and winter at Arbor Lodge, Fort Atkinson and Buffalo Bill Ranch state historical parks, as well as Alexandria State Recreation Area.

FLORIDA

From the Pensacola Business Journal:

Superintendent Dan Brown couldn’t wait to tackle a few eyesore issues when he took over Gulf Islands National Seashore in 2010. Among them, renovating the nondescript, 1960s-era Fort Pickens camp store to give it some much-needed character change.

“The appearance of that building has bothered me since before I started working here,” Brown said. “It was constructed when Fort Pickens was a state park. It’s not the quality or caliber of a facility we’d expect to see in our national parks. To be quite frank, that building is ugly, ugly, ugly.”

Plans to completely replace the camp store with a combination store, campground check-in and restrooms have been put on hold, with federal budget constraints what they are these days.

In the interim, and during the lull between summer and fall tourism, the seashore has contracted Sunrise Contracting Co. of Pensacola to give the building a facelift, basically covering the bricks with hardy board and making it look more like the other historic buildings in the Fort Pickens area of the seashore.

The $183,383 project also calls for replacing windows that have been boarded up since Hurricane Ivan in 2004, installing hurricane shutters and replacing the doors with handicap accessible doors.

With one summer under their belt, the new Fort Pickens concession operators, who have expanded offerings by adding bicycle, paddleboard, and beach chair and umbrella rentals, said they’re focusing on beefing up inventory inside the store while contractors update the outside.

The idea is to give campers everything they need to prevent them from having to make long trips into Gulf Breeze to shop.

The concession operators are also preparing for a busy fall camping season after they received permission to expand their rental services into November. The improvements to the camp store building will be a plus, Rayner said.

COLORADO

From the Durango Herald:

The fading popularity of hunting and fishing is catching up to Colorado’s wildlife agency, which needs to cut about $10 million out of its budget next year.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife commissioners considered options to make cuts while keeping the agency running smoothly for hunters and anglers Thursday at a meeting in Montrose.

No cuts were finalized Thursday, but the governor-appointed Parks and Wildlife Commission told its staff to prepare to proceed with $9.9 million in cuts to the $80.7 million wildlife fund. The cuts include 17 full-time positions, some of which are vacant.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife was formed two years ago from the merger of the Division of Wildlife and the State Parks division.

The $10 million shortfall is entirely on the wildlife side of the agency, Hampton said.

It’s a reversal of fortune from the time of the merger, when the parks division was assumed to be the weaker partner after struggling with low revenue for years.

“Parks (division) is actually in good financial condition,” said Randy Hampton, the agency’s spokesman.

CALIFORNIA

From KGO-TV, San Francisco:

A fire that has burned more than 3,000 acres in and around Mount Diablo State Park over the past week has been 100% contained.

The Morgan Fire, which was initially reported around 1 p.m. Sunday off of Morgan Territory Road near the park and southeast of Clayton, was fully contained at 3,111 acres as of 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Cal Fire officials said.

Winds and dry vegetation helped fuel the fire, which prompted the evacuation of some 75 homes. Residents were allowed to return to their homes by Tuesday, according to fire officials.

Fire investigators have determined that target shooting in the area on Sunday caused the Morgan Fire.

Mount Diablo State Park is on track to partially reopen today, and crews are working to fix park trails and structures damaged in the blaze, according to park officials.

Click here to watch a video courtesy of KGO-TV.

WYOMING

From National Parks Traveler:

More than 100 earthquakes have shaken Yellowstone National Park since Sept. 10, with the strongest, a tremblor of 3.6 magnitude, felt Sunday (Sept. 15), according to the University of Utah Semisograph Stations.

The quake occurred at 9:53:02 a.m. Sunday; the epicenter of the shock was located in Yellowstone’s Lower Geyser Basin area, 8 miles north of Old Faithful, and 15 miles southeast of West Yellowstone.

According to the seismograph station, the swarm began Sept. 10 and has included quakes near Lewis Lake, the Lower Geyser Basin and in an area northwest of Norris Geyser Basin.

“A total of 130 earthquakes of magnitude 0.6 to 3.6 have occurred in these three areas, however, most have occurred near the Lower Geyser Basin,” park officials reported. “Notably, much of the seismicity in Yellowstone occurs as swarms. The University of Utah Seismograph Stations continues to monitor Yellowstone earthquakes and will provide additional information if the earthquake swarm activity increases.”

WEST VIRGINIA

From The Associated Press:

West Virginians can pitch in at state parks through the next two weeks under the “Day to Serve” initiative.

This is the second year the state has been part of a multi-state effort to encourage more volunteerism. The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources says the state parks are a great place to do your part.

At Cacapon Resort State Park, the Piney Ridge Trail needs a restoration, while trail work awaits volunteers at Blackwater Falls State Park. Also at Blackwater, a volunteer litter patrol will clean up around Pendleton Lake.

At Twin Falls State Park, volunteers can build or maintain biking trails.

 

 

Editorial: Park Closures Needed More Warning

September 6, 2013 by · Comments Off on Editorial: Park Closures Needed More Warning 

Editor’s Note: The following editorial appeared in The Independent, the daily newspaper serving Grand Island, Neb., and surrounding areas.

Nebraska Game and Parks is closing 29 state parks early this fall in order to free staff to do deferred maintenance projects.

This move, announced last week by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, is understandable, but the timing is unfair to Nebraskans who use the parks.

Of the 29 closings, 24 are state recreation areas and five are historical parks. Those being closed in Central Nebraska include the North Loup and War Axe recreation areas and the Fort Hartsuff Historical Park. The parks will be closed from Sept. 16 to May 1.

The commission’s game plan is to use the staff from these closed parks to address some of the $30 million of deferred maintenance projects at parks throughout the state.

While it’s good to address the maintenance needs and using parks staff is cost efficient, the timing seems all wrong.

Many Nebraskans paid $25 for a year-long permit to enter the state parks and recreation areas. Now, to find out with four months of the year left that some areas are closed isn’t right.

Some may have been planning fall excursions to these sites. Others may not have bought permits if they had known these sites were going to be closed during the pleasant fall months. September and October can have some of the nicest weather of the year.

A much better approach would have been to have planned these closures and announced that they were going to happen at the beginning of the year. That way people buying permits would have been able to take the early closings into consideration.

To be fair, the 29 sites slated for early closing are some of the least visited state parks. That’s why they were selected, which makes a lot of sense.

But to someone planning an October visit to Arbor Lodge State Historical Park in Nebraska City or to the Buffalo Bill Ranch State Recreation Area in North Platte to see the autumn colors, it’s a huge disappointment.

Nebraska’s parks are near and dear to the state’s residents. With the state having a record surplus in its cash reserves, one would think the state could come up with a way to address maintenance needs without having to close parks.

Closing the parks is an extraordinary measure, while this maintenance should be a matter of course. Instead of giving residents two weeks’ notice that these parks are closing early, the notice should have been given months ago.

Nebraska’s park system has been strapped for funds to do needed maintenance projects. Park permits generated $5.5 million in revenue last year, 70% of the system’s operating budget.

The Legislature needs to look for a way to provide funding for park maintenance that will help avoid these temporary closures in the future.

 

Early Season Close for 29 Nebraskan Facilities

September 3, 2013 by · Comments Off on Early Season Close for 29 Nebraskan Facilities 

Funding challenges have forced the Nebraska Game and Parks Board to temporarily close 24 state recreation areas (SRA) and five state historical parks (SHP), KLKN-TV, Lincoln, Neb., reported.

The purpose of the closures is to redirect Game and Parks staff from the closed areas in an effort to reduce the more than $30 million of identified deferred maintenance needs of an aging Nebraska State Park System and meet compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and environmental requirements.

SRAs that will close Sept. 16 and reopen May 1, 2014, are: Blue River, Cheyenne, Conestoga, Cottonwood, Dead Timber, DLD, Keller, Long Lake, Long Pine, North Loup, Olive Creek, Oliver Reservoir, Pelican Point, Riverview Marina, Rock Creek Lake, Sandy Channel, Schramm, Sutherland, Union Pacific, Verdon, Stagecoach, Walgren, and War Axe. Vehicle access to boat ramps will remain open at Riverview, Pelican Point and Sutherland’s Hershey Beach.

State historic parks that will close Sept. 16 and reopen May 1, 2014, are: Ash Hollow, Buffalo Bill, and Fort Hartsuff. The closure of Arbor Lodge SHP in Nebraska City will be delayed until Sept. 23, following the Applejack Festival, and will reopen April 23, 2014, for the Arbor Day celebration.

Fort Atkinson SHP and Alexandria SRA will close Oct. 7 and reopen May 1, 2014. This is to accommodate Fort Atkinson’s annual living history weekend Oct. 5-6. The delayed closure at Alexandria SRA accommodates services being provided by a concessionaire.

These closures are a continuation of a process over the past five years that led to the transfer of eight park areas, privatization and consolidation of several park operations, and elimination of 43 permanent park positions (nearly 20%). These decisions have been driven by the lack of a sustainable funding source to operate and maintain a quality State Park System into the future.

“The temporary closure of parks and the redirection of staff to work priority projects is one more step in an effort to address the funding challenges of the Nebraska State Park System,” Game and Parks Director Jim Douglas said. “Game and Parks recognizes and values the importance of our partnerships and the role our state park areas play. These measures are a necessary management decision that is difficult to make, but Game and Parks is running out of options. We hope the public and our park visitors will understand we are doing everything we can to shore up our infrastructure and meet our mandates for accessibility and requirements regarding environmental compliance in light of the limited funding available.”

State Sen. Bill Avery introduced LB362 during the 2013 legislative session. The bill was designed to replace the Park Entry Permit by placing a $7 charge on the motor vehicle registration fee. LB362’s future is uncertain, but if passed as proposed, the bill’s language would repeal the Park Entry Permit requirement for residents and generate enough annual revenue to provide a sustainable funding model that would allow Game and Parks to properly address deferred maintenance and ADA needs to ensure a quality State Park System.

 

Neb. Park Visitation Drops, But Above Average

August 13, 2013 by · Comments Off on Neb. Park Visitation Drops, But Above Average 

Visitors to Nebraska’s state parks and recreational areas are buying fewer entrance permits this year than at the same point in 2012, but the numbers are still above average after a surge in sales last year.

The Associated Press reported that the state has sold 336,425 park-entrance permits as of July 31 — about 25,000 fewer than at the same time last year, according to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. The number of annual and daily permits was down, as was the number of “duplicate” passes sold at half price to visitors who want to register more than one vehicle.

Still, the number of permits sold was above the state’s five-year average. The sales have generated $4.6 million in revenue so far this year, down from the nearly $4.9 million during the same period in 2012 but well above recent years.

Game and Parks officials said an unusually mild winter and early spring helped boost last year’s permit sales, as did the lack of the rain. This year has proven more seasonal because of greater rainfall, and permit sales have returned to more normal levels, said Patrick Cole, the commission’s budget director.

“Memorial Day tends to be our peak time,” Cole said. “Last year, the weather was beautiful. It was nice even into early March.”

Cole said most of the permits sell in the first half of the year, as families prepare for summer vacations. The parks often see a last-minute spike in attendance in late July and early August, he said, as many families squeeze in a last-minute trip before schools starts.

Nebraska has eight state parks, 59 state recreation areas and 10 state historical parks, all of which require a park permit to enter.

Despite the reduced sales, park administrators said attendance at Nebraska’s parks has remained strong, and many of the camp sites have stayed at capacity. Parks officials said they won’t know exact attendance until the end of the year.

“This year has been pretty good,” said Jim Fuller, an assistant division administrator for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. “We’ve had some rains, but they haven’t been heavy rains. Many of the parks have been busy all summer long, and these past few weeks have been extraordinarily busy.”

To read the entire story click here.

Nebraska Ponders License Plate Fee for Parks

July 30, 2013 by · Comments Off on Nebraska Ponders License Plate Fee for Parks 

Those who collect Nebraska park stickers on their windshields might have to come up with another way to display their camp warrior status.

The Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee heard mostly support Thursday (July 25) for a bill that would do away with stickers in favor of a $7 registration fee on most motor vehicles and trailers, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

The proposal would spread out parks funding across a larger number of Nebraskans and would depart from a user fee system that’s been in place for decades.

Parks supporters sounded ready to climb aboard the different funding vehicle, with eight people testifying in support. One person spoke against the proposal.

“I think younger families will use parks more often without having to pay for a permit — senior citizens, too,” said Joanie Stone, representing the state chapter of Family Campers and RVers.

Legislative Bill 362, introduced by Sen. Bill Avery of Lincoln, would raise nearly $12 million annually for state parks. But for Nebraska residents, it also would do away with the $25 annual and $5 daily park-entry permits, which raised $5.6 million last year. Nonresidents would continue to buy park permits.

The bill specifically exempts semitrailers, buses, taxis and other commercial vehicles from the registration fee.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission budgets about $22 million annually for state park operations.

Additional funds provided by the vehicle registration fees would go toward the $30 million backlog in deferred maintenance projects, said Roger Kuhn, parks administrator with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

A couple of the committee members said they were uneasy with raising vehicle registration fees. Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton said money collected from motorists should go to roads.

“Everybody who drives a car uses the roads,” she said. “Not everybody who drives a car will use the park system.”

That was a view shared by Curtis Smith of the Nebraska Chapter of Associated General Contractors, who testified against the bill.

But John Kingsbury of Ponca, who has been a community leader behind the major redevelopment of Ponca State Park, said all Nebraskans benefit from the tourism dollars the state park system generates. With more than 800,000 annual visits, the park has become a significant economic factor in northeast Nebraska.

Kingsbury argued that $7 is less than the price of a movie ticket.

“The investment and resulting growth at Ponca State Park tells us that our concern about a video game generation, or the lack of physical exercise and childhood obesity, can be overcome if we provide and promote great outdoor activities,” he said.

 

 

Neb. Park Bailout Idea Labeled ‘Extortion’

April 22, 2013 by · Comments Off on Neb. Park Bailout Idea Labeled ‘Extortion’ 

Sen. Bill Avery started debate Wednesday (April 17) in the Nebraska legislature on an idea to fund improvements for state parks with a disclaimer.

“This bill is not popular, and I know that,” he said.

He was right. Debate did not produce a vote on the bill. Most senators agreed there was a need to fix the parks’ problems; they just couldn’t say how, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton led the opposition to the bill (LB362), which would add $7 to most vehicle registrations to pay for the parks’ needs.

“I think this would be a great topic for an interim study for the Natural Resources Committee to conduct,” Dubas said.

The bill was one idea for Nebraska residents to help pay the $43 million in needed improvements to the park system. It would generate about $12 million a year.

The proposal would replace the $25 yearly park fee with a $7 car registration fee that would allow any vehicle with Nebraska license plates to enter state parks or recreation areas without permits.

Non-Nebraska residents would continue to pay the $25 yearly fee or $5 daily fee.

In 2011, lawmakers raised annual permit fees to $25 from $20 and daily passes to $5 from $4, a measure that took an override of Gov. Dave Heineman’s veto.

In 2012, Nebraska Game and Parks sold 242,000 daily permits, 140,000 annual permits and 66,000 duplicate annual permits for a total of $5.5 million. Charging about $3.50 per registration would raise about the same amount of money.

In addition to the parks’ daily maintenance and operational needs, Avery said they have more than $30 million in backlogged maintenance that has pressed some of them to near closure. Ash Hollow State Park needs a new septic system and Calamus Reservoir State Recreation Area needs a new dock. There is also a $13 million need for improvements in accessibility for people with handicaps.

In the past two years, the state has turned over five state parks to counties for maintenance by such organizations as Rotary Clubs and Boy Scouts.

Permit revenue provides most of the funding for the state park system, which consists of eight parks, 11 historic parks such as Arbor Lodge in Nebraska City, 64 recreation areas and two recreational trails that see a total of more than 12 million visitors a year.

Dubas said some of the exemptions to the bill — including vehicles with handicap, veteran-related and historical plates and trucks — could be unconstitutional.

Nebraska ranks among the highest in the nation on car registration fees and taxes, with an average cost of $306 per vehicle, she said.

Dubas said the parks contribute in a major way to the state’s economy and highlight its natural resources to people from out-of-state.

“But I just really struggle with the direction that we’re going in trying to find a solution to this,” she said.

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers also opposed the bill.

“This is extortion,” he said. “I do not want the Department of Motor Vehicles to become a cash register to hustle money for Game and Parks and compel people to put seven additional dollars down when they can barely pay the cost now that’s required.”

Avery said that before the bill comes back for debate, he would look for ways to reduce the $7 fee, and a funding mechanism to make up the difference.

 

Nebraska Has New State Parks Funding Plan

February 8, 2013 by · Comments Off on Nebraska Has New State Parks Funding Plan 

New funding plan afoot

Those who collect Nebraska park stickers on their windshields might have to come up with another way to display their camp warrior status.

The Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee heard mostly support Thursday (Feb. 7) for a bill that would do away with stickers in favor of a $7 registration fee on most motor vehicles and trailers, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

The proposal would spread out parks’ funding across a larger number of Nebraskans and would depart from a user fee system that’s been in place for decades.

Parks supporters sounded ready to climb aboard the different funding vehicle, with eight people testifying in support. One person spoke against the proposal.

“I think younger families will use parks more often without having to pay for a permit — senior citizens, too,” said Joanie Stone, representing the state chapter of Family Campers and RVers.

Legislative Bill 362, introduced by Sen. Bill Avery of Lincoln, would raise nearly $12 million annually for state parks. But for Nebraska residents, it also would do away with the $25 annual and $5 daily park-entry permits, which raised $5.6 million last year. Nonresidents would continue to buy park permits.

The bill specifically exempts semitrailers, buses, taxis and other commercial vehicles from the registration fee.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission budgets about $22 million annually for state park operations.

Additional funds provided by the vehicle registration fees would go toward the $30 million backlog in deferred maintenance projects, said Roger Kuhn, parks administrator with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

A couple of the committee members said they were uneasy with raising vehicle registration fees. Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton said money collected from motorists should go to roads.

“Everybody who drives a car uses the roads,” she said. “Not everybody who drives a car will use the park system.”

That was a view shared by Curtis Smith of the Nebraska Chapter of Associated General Contractors, who testified against the bill.

But John Kingsbury of Ponca, who has been a community leader behind the major redevelopment of Ponca State Park, said all Nebraskans benefit from the tourism dollars the state park system generates. With more than 800,000 annual visits, the park has become a significant economic factor in northeast Nebraska.

Kingsbury argued that $7 is less than the price of a movie ticket.

“The investment and resulting growth at Ponca State Park tells us that our concern about a video game generation, or the lack of physical exercise and childhood obesity, can be overcome if we provide and promote great outdoor activities,” he said.

 

 

Neb. Senator Seeks Plate Fees to Fund Parks

January 21, 2013 by · Comments Off on Neb. Senator Seeks Plate Fees to Fund Parks 

State Sen. Bill Avery of Lincoln wants to change the way Nebraskans pay to visit the state’s parks and recreation areas.

Instead of requiring people to purchase annual or daily permits for their vehicles, Avery is proposing in a bill (LB362) introduced Friday (Jan. 18) to add a fee on most car registrations and allow any vehicle with Nebraska license plates to enter a state park or recreation area without a permit, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

In 2011, lawmakers raised annual permit fees to $25 from $20 and daily passes to $5 from $4.

The only opposition came from a few senators who said they were concerned that raising the fees might strain low-income people but generally supported the plan as a way to raise money sorely needed to help maintain state parks.

“Since its inception in 1978, citizens have expressed interest in eliminating mandatory park fee and finding alternative funding,” Avery said.

His measure would maintain yearly and daily park permit fees for nonresident passenger vehicles.

In recent years, the Game and Parks Commission has had to reduce maintenance, mowing and trash removal at some parks and recreation areas because of budget cuts and cost increases.

Permit revenue provides most of the funding for the state park system, which consists of eight parks, 11 historic parks such as Arbor Lodge in Nebraska City, 64 recreation areas and two recreational trails that see a total of more than 9 million visitors a year.

Of the 36 states that use a permit system to help fund their parks, Washington charges the most — $100 for an annual permit. Nebraska, Kansas, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Minnesota charge the least — $25.

In 2012, Nebraska Game and Parks sold 242,000 daily permits, 140,000 annual permits and 66,000 duplicate annual permits for a total of $5.5 million. Charging about $3.50 per registration would raise about the same amount of money.

Tourism is the No. 3 industry in Nebraska, generating $3.7 billion a year and supporting 44,000 jobs. State parks and recreation areas account for 17 of the 25 top-visited attractions in Nebraska.

Gov. Dave Heineman has asked lawmakers for $1.7 million to upgrade camping services at two Nebraska state parks. Heineman said his budget request would boost tourism at Mahoney State Park, in eastern Nebraska and the Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area in the western part of the state.

 

Nebraska Pegs $1.7M for Campground Upgrades

January 18, 2013 by · Comments Off on Nebraska Pegs $1.7M for Campground Upgrades 

Cabins, enhanced campgrounds and horse-friendly campsites are part of a $1.7 million package of improvements proposed for Mahoney State Park near Ashland, Neb., and Lake McConaughy near Ogallala, Neb.

Gov. Dave Heineman and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission officials announced these improvements Thursday (Jan. 17) as a way of boosting tourism and increasing revenue at two of the state’s most visited state parks, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

More than 1 million people visited Mahoney in 2010, generating more than $52 million in retail sales, according to the commission. Factor in trip-related spending and the figure jumps to nearly $87 million.

Lake McConaughy had a similar economic impact in 2010. The park drew nearly 1 million people and generated more than $44 million in retail sales. Trip-related spending boosted revenue to more than $73 million.

Taken together, the two state parks are responsible for 20% of the annual visits to Nebraska’s state park system, Commission Director Jim Douglas said.

“Tourism is important to Nebraska and these strategic investments will help meet the current demands at two of our outstanding, popular parks,” Heineman told reporters at a Thursday news conference.

The $1.7 million is part of Heineman’s proposed biennium budget for fiscal years 2013-2015. If approved by the Legislature, construction could be completed within 18 months, Douglas said.

At Mahoney State Park, the commission plans to build three “lodge-style” cabins. The 700-acre park, just off Interstate 80 along the Platte River, currently has 52 cabins.

Modeled after similar facilities at Ponca State Park, each modern cabin would have six bedrooms, three bathrooms, a great room with a fireplace, fully equipped kitchen, dining area, and a deck offering scenic views.

Douglas said the cabins will help meet demand and offer more opportunities to bring families together and foster an appreciation for nature. They are also used for corporate functions and even weddings.

The commission plans to upgrade two campgrounds at Lake McConaughy, the state’s largest reservoir. At Lone Eagle, the commission plans to provide water, sewage and electrical service at 84 camping pad sites. Twenty full-service sites, 40 electrical sites and new equestrian-friendly features at 35 of the 60 sites are planned for Cedar Vue.

Commission Chair Ron Stave said the improvements will spur economic development and attract visitors from across the nation.

Ogallala Sen. Ken Schilz, whose legislative district includes Lake McConaughy, said tourism has become a large part of the state’s economy.

About 70% of the annual visitors to Lake McConaughy come from Colorado, Douglas said.

State Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion, whose legislative district includes Mahoney, noted that the commission is mostly a self-funded agency that doesn’t frequently ask the state for funds to improve state parks.

“This will easily pay for itself — that’s why I support it,” Kintner said.

 

Nebraska State Parks Report Banner Year

August 3, 2012 by · Comments Off on Nebraska State Parks Report Banner Year 

This year’s long warm season has been great for Nebraska state parks.

“It’s an amazing year,”Kirk Nelson, west region parks manager, told the Lincoln Journal Star. “This year the sun came out and it warmed up in March, and everybody came out.”

It translated to big numbers and big weekends early on at the parks, especially in the east. It was one of the best Memorial Day weekends ever.

As the heat came on in July, the tent campers and people who like to rough it dropped off, but the pop-up camper and RVs have remained steady.

“Water-based recreation has been the name of the game after the heat started,” Nelson said.

Calamus reservoir campground has been full every weekend.

“McConaughy, they’ve been ringing that lake. Denverites, Coloradoans have been showing up in huge numbers,” he said.

The lake may be down some, but it started brim full, so it’s still at 60 percent, he said.

“We’re going to have a heck of a year. It’s going to be a barn burner,” he said.

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