Heat, algae, economy take toll on Kansas state parks

Wichita EagleSeptember 2, 2011 

With revenues down, Cheney State Park manager Jody Schwartz is hoping for a busy Labor Day weekend.

Things don't look good so far.

"I've never seen it this slow before a holiday weekend in my life," Schwartz said this week. "In a good year all of our utility sites are full about two weeks before the holiday. Today I've got about 70 percent vacancies."

He's been at Cheney State Park since 1979 and said he's never experienced years with so many challenges.

"The heat, the bad economy, high gas prices, the blue-green algae; it's a combination of a little bit of everything going wrong at once," he said. "Now the lake's 3 feet low, too. That's a lot of exposed shoreline on a lake like Cheney."

Schwartz estimated Cheney's revenues are down about 20 percent this year.

Linda Lanterman, state park director for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, said most state parks have been facing lean times, including some in northern Kansas that have experienced flooding this year.

Lanterman estimated statewide revenue is currently down about 10 percent from last year. "And that wasn't exactly a great year, either," she said. "It's not good news."

That's a lot for an agency that's been running on shoestring budgets for many years.

Lanterman hopes the milder weather forecast for this weekend will draw more business.

Schwartz got a break this week when testing by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment lifted the blue-green algae advisory warning against contact with Cheney's water.

Blue-green algae can cause health problems if it's swallowed, inhaled or comes in contact with human skin.

Read the complete story at kansas.com

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