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The Kansan - Newton, KS
  • Parks close season with attendance dip 

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    By Chad Frey
    Newton Kansan
    For the second consecutive year, mother nature hasn’t done Harvey County parks any favors.
    Hot weather. Blue-green algae blooms in two of the three county parks.
    It’s led to one park holding attendance steady, and two others with a decline in use.
    “I’d say we’ve seen a good 20 percent dip,” said Kass Miller, ranger for Harvey County East Lake and Camp Hawk. “This year and last were tough.”
    While those parks have seen a drop in usage, Harvey County East Park just ended the traditional summer season with a bang. Labor Day weekend was busy.
    While there were camping spots open for tent campers, all the spots with access to electricity for those in campers and RVs were full.
    “This year West is up over last year, and we were full Labor day weekend,” Shannon Metz said. “We had to turn people away because we didn’t have enough electrical slots.”
    Miller said he wants to know Metz’s secret.
    She said local traffic, and a loyal following, is what has West Park doing well in the face of adverse conditions.
    “A lot of it has to with the economy,” Metz said. “We all want some kind of activity and recreation. With people not as flush with cash, they want to do something. A local park is a place they can go, not spend a lot of money and get some good clean recreation.”
    However, after two years of tough conditions, Miller is expecting budget cuts for the county park system.
    Those cuts could mean reduced staff time, deferred maintenance or a host of other issues. Some cuts have already begun — the parks department shut down one of the county bait shops.
    “Overall we are not seeing as much revenue, and the budget has to reflect that,” Miller said. “That’s one of the reasons we shut down the bait shop (at East Park). We just didn’t have the revenue to keep it open. I can’t help but that think that hurt us. ... We won’t do improvements to the parks, and we’ll cut back on hours. We will cut back wherever we can.”
    But not all his news following Labor Day was doom and gloom. The parks are still open — and will stay open all winter long.
    “They just stocked the lake, and there are plenty of fish to catch,” Miller said. “And there are other things to do in the park other than swim. ... The parks are open every day of the year.”
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