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Kansas Parks Tabulating Economic Losses from Floods

Cabin at Cross Timbers State Park (Photo by Rex Buchanan)

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — This spring's heavy rain and flooding will cause significant economic losses at many of the state's 28 parks, both from damage and from closures and refunds to disappointed campers, state parks officials said.  Brad Loveless, secretary of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, said the losses will be clearer in a month or two when the cost of repairs and renovations are better known. The agency relies chiefly on entrance permits, campsite and cabin rental fees, and marina concessions to fund state parks.  Already, the agency's park fee fund is down about $100,000 for April and May compared with a year ago because of a loss in entrance fees and campsite fees. Income from cabin rentals is down by $30,000 for those two months compared with a year ago, The Hutchinson News reported.  Those figures don't include all the refunds the department has been processing, "which is significant in June," according to agency spokesman Ron Kaufman.

Other losses occurred in marina concessions and from moving the Country Stampede's move from Tuttle Creek State Park to Topeka's Heartland Motorsports Park.  So far, the agency hasn't asked the state for special help, with regular staff and seasonal workers managing the cleanup.  "We will need state assistance for repairing damages and for cash flow if revenues drop significantly," Kaufman said.  Loveless said the damage is being documented and he is hopeful the state will receive help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Kaufman noted that lakes in western Kansas, which were down because of drought, rose because of the rains but didn't flood and are in "great shape."  Parks also benefit from Kansas Lottery dollars and can obtain federal grants for projects. But the parks don't receive money from the state general fund and revenue from the sale of hunting, fishing and fur harvesting licenses and permits cannot be spent for state park operations or maintenance and repairs.  Last year, the Park Fee Fund and Cabin Fund generated more than $10.5 million during the fiscal year, with nearly 6.9 million people visiting Kansas parks.

The high water caused several state parks to cancel campsite reservations for Memorial Day weekend, which is one of the top three periods for most parks. The Fourth of July is another peak time and some parks will have certain campsites unavailable then, too.  Cleanup and restoration will take months.

The many projects at the parks include hauling away debris, re-installing water heaters and electrical components, repairing or rebuilding boat ramps and docks, repairing some cabin flooring and cutting and removing fallen trees. Some roads in the parks also will need repair.  "Hundreds of acres of grass" will have to be replanted, and "mountains of debris removed," Kaufman said.  Kaufman said the agency has a small, in-house engineering staff and engineering consultants to help design and oversee major repairs, and contractors will be used as necessary.

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