Dan Harms is an avid disc golfer who took his first shot at politics for the first time this year, helping organize an effort to place a referendum on the ballot to ask county residents about selling Camp Hawk — a park just south of Newton that is part of the county parks system and hosts one of the region's premier disc golf courses.
It's safe to call his group's effort an Ace — what ball golfers would call a hole in one.
On Nov. 7, 6,090 people voted on the referendum — with more than 77 percent voting "no." That vote is against selling Camp Hawk.
"I have learned if you become focused on what is going on, and you are willing to put the effort and time in, you can make an impact," Harms told The Kansan. "... pay attention, and if you are concerned about something, go to forums and be heard. People do coalesce around you."
Harms also told the Kansan his group had their goal set at a 70 percent benchmark — wanting to make sure the message to the county commission was very clear from voters.
That message was very clear.
On Nov. 8, Anthony Swartzendruber, administrator of Harvey County, told The Kansan that talking about the future of Camp Hawk is one of the top agenda items — and that there was planning in place for the contingency that voters would elect to keep the park.
"The plan initially will be to talk with the commission on Monday," Swartzendruber said. "We planned for either contingency, that is our role here, to facilitate that. Monday I will plan to discuss some immediate needs that I think need to be met out at Camp Hawk and we will continue to budget for Camp Hawk with the same process that we use for the other two parks and all the other departments for the county."
Swartzendruber would not go into detail, saying he didn't want to "give away his gameplan" before talking with the commission.
Some of the needs of the park are well known, brought forward during the process of discussing a possible sale of the property. The dam for the fishing lake is leaking and in need of repair, and a house that once served as a ranger residence is in need of repair or removal. In the 2017 budget, there were no capital expenses budgeted for Camp Hawk, however, there is funding in the county budget that could be available to take care of some needs at Camp Hawk.
"Monday it will be clear what we will recommend in the short term, and what some of the plans could be long-term," Swartzendruber said. "... The voters made a decision that the county should keep Camp Hawk. With that decision made, we need to do what we can to make Camp Hawk the best place it can be ... to be sure that we have the amenities out there that people are seeking. I envision there being opportunity for people to give input to both the commission and parks advisory board on what they want to see. ... Those will be a part of a longer-term process."
Commissioner Ron Krehbiel told the Kansan that after the vote, the future of Camp Hawk is decided — and that future includes making improvements to Camp Hawk.
"They want to keep it, and we are going to have to come up with some bucks, fix 'er and go," Krehbiel said. "They want her, and they are willing to pay a little money to keep it. With me, that is fine and I have no problem with it."
Krehbiel said the conversation of selling off the park started because there are upgrades needed for not only Camp Hawk, but all three county parks. Those conversations led to the commission to consider selling off Camp Hawk to finance improvements to other parks.
"I figured it would go that way, but I didn't think it would be that much," Krehbiel said. "I said from the very start, it is our job to do what the people want. I did not have any crazy personal feelings on it, and that is fine with me."