Most, if not all Kansas State parks are located at major lakes and reservoirs, so it’s no surprise that many of them were devastated by the flood waters. Kansas Department. of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) reports that over one-half of our state parks were seriously affected by the flooding. By the time you read this column, July 4 will be upon us, a normally very busy time for state parks, but many will still not be open or will offer only limited services. KDWPT says that one-fourth to one-half of the annual state park revenue comes from visitors to state parks and lakes over Memorial Day weekend, which was literally a “washout,” and now the Fourth of July holiday will bring in very limited revenue also.
KDWPT relies solely on park entrance fees, campsite and cabin rental fees and marina concessions to fund state parks operation, maintenance and repairs. The sale of hunting, fishing and fur harvesting licenses CANNOT be used for state parks. In 2018 about 6.9 million people visited Kansas state parks, and the Park Fee Fund and Cabin Rental Fund together brought more than $10.5 million in revenue. As of June 15, the Park Fee Fund for just the months of April-May was down about $100,000 compared to 2018 due to lost entrance and campsite fees. The income from cabin rentals was off by $30,000, and that doesn’t include refunds to people who had prepaid. Also lost was revenue from marina concessions and income from the annual Country Stampede held every year at Tuttle Creek that was moved this year because Tuttle Creek State Park was unusable. The Cheney State Park manager estimated that income there at Cheney alone was down by $50,000 compared to 2018.
Besides tremendous loss of income, our state parks will now face enormous repair expenses to boot, and at some parks, employees don’t yet know entirely what they’re dealing with. At some parks, power was turned off, electrical components removed from boxes and water heaters removed from showers because of the depth of the flood water. That meant no power to campsites and no power to pump sewage, etc.
At Kanopolis, many trailers had to be moved to higher ground. At other parks, cabins were moved and myriads of picnic tables were chained down. One marina owner said they had no fuel to sell yet but were thinking about getting T-shirts made to sell that read “I Didn’t Drown in the Flood of 2019.”
Cleanup and restoration will take months at best; electrical components and water heaters will need to be reinstalled. Mountains of debris will need to be hauled and trash sorted from it before it can be disposed of or burned. Sand will need to be brought in to restore beaches; fallen trees and limbs will need to be cut up and moved, and hundreds of acres of grass will need to be cleaned or replanted. Boat ramps and docks will need to be repositioned and repaired and some structures rebuilt entirely. Cabin damage will need fixing, and big rocks and other objects that got moved around by the rushing water will need to be repositioned. And none of this even addresses the miles of roads that will need to be repaired or replaced.
Such is life; we often don’t know what we have until it’s gone. One park official also mentioned the lingering smell at his park. “It all smells like the inside of a minnow bucket!” he said. The KDWPT website, www.ksoutdoors.com, has a new link in red letters at the top that takes you to a page called “State Park Alerts” and lists the status of all Kansas State Parks at any given time. Check that link for the status of your favorite parks, and let’s continue enjoying them as we continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors!
Steve Gilliland can be contacted by email at email@example.com.