State parks seeing high numbers during crisis

Coronavirus in Kansas

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – Coronavirus has slowed most parts of the economy, but one area is doing better than average.

State parks are bringing in more money than normal. Park revenue in Kansas took a hit last year with flooding at lakes putting many campgrounds and roads underwater.

Now, people are flocking to campsites at state parks during the coronavirus outbreak, which is helping make up for lost funds.

“For the last three weeks, it’s been like a holiday weekend for three weekends now for us, which is very very different,” Perry State Park Manager Michelle Campbell said.

She said people have been saying they have more time on their hands, with not having to take their kids to school and many people being off of work. So they’re deciding to get out of the house.

“People are just anxious to get outdoors, they have said to us, ‘I’m tired of being closed up, I’m bored out of my skull, I need to get out, I need to start camping,'” she said.

Seeing this increase in people visiting parks this early is new for park workers. Memorial Day weekend is typically the big kickoff for state parks, but everything is different this year.

“We’ve seen an uptick in visitation and revenue significantly,” said Linda Lanterman, the director of Kansas state parks for the state department of wildlife, parks, and tourism. “I’d anticipate it to continue on.”

Officials said parks are seeing more people coming from outside of Kansas because other states have put tougher restrictions on their parks.

So workers are cleaning more, trying to keep big groups of people away from each other, and have kept and beaches and playgrounds and some cabins closed to prevent the spread.

Campbell said workers are still worried about the possibility of flooding this year, but the coronavirus pandemic has given them even more to think about.

“It’s stressful in a different way because again you’re trying to get people to practice their social distancing,” Campbell said. “How are we going to make sure our state park doesn’t become a hot spot, and so what we tell people is be self-contained.”

State officials said it’s important to keep the parks open during this time to give people a place to enjoy themselves.

“Parks as a whole can be the silver lining to give people the ability to get out and get into nature, which science shows that’s good for your mental and physical health,” Lanterman said.

Officials encouraged people even if you aren’t camping to get out to state parks to hike, bike, and fish.

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