FARLINGTON — Heavy rains and flooding earlier this year have cost the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) millions of dollars in lost revenue from park closures during their usual peak season, along with property damage and washed out roads, the Associated Press and Kansas News Service have reported.
While Southeast Kansas saw severe weather this spring — including tornadoes near Pittsburg and flooding of local parks in Baxter Springs — resulting in Crawford, Cherokee, and several other nearby counties being included in a state disaster declaration, the closest state park was not seriously impacted by the storms.
“In a nutshell,” said Nick Sell, administrative specialist at Crawford State Park, “our park was not affected by flooding when many other state parks were.” Sell added that Crawford State Park did not have to close during the months of May through August — what Parks Director Linda Lanterman calls the “Million-Dollar Months” — meaning its revenue was not significantly reduced.
Statewide, this was not typical. In June of this year, for example, revenue generated by the state park system overall was less than half of what it was — over $1 million less — than in June 2018. And June was not the only month that flooding was serious enough to close campgrounds and shut off other revenue streams.
“We’re not talking about for a week,” Lanterman told Kansas News Service. “We’re talking six weeks, eight weeks,” Lanterman said, “so the damage is significant until you can get that water down.”
Parts of some eastern Kansas state parks remain flooded even now, according to the AP, preventing KDWPT from assessing the total amount of damage.
“Repairing damage will be a daunting task,” the AP reported. “Floodwaters cracked boat docks, washed away gravel from roads, filled restrooms with silt and removed chunks of land underneath concrete campsites and picnic table pads.”