TOPEKA — The toll of massive flooding in Kansas is proving to be high for the agency that operates state parks.
KCUR reports that the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism will lose millions of dollars as the result of park closures, property damage and washed out park roads.
In much of the state, heavy rains began in early spring and flooding was widespread into the summer. High water levels at reservoirs, where many state parks are located, inundated campgrounds, boat docks and roads.
Parks Director Linda Lanterman said the timing was especially bad because May through August are the “Million-Dollar Months,” when revenue is at its highest. This year, state park revenue fell short in those four months. Consider June: Revenue was $568,743 compared to revenue of nearly $1.6 million in June 2018.
Even now, parts of a few state parks in eastern Kansas remain flooded, preventing the department from fully assessing the damage. Most parks opened by mid-July.
Repairing damage will be a daunting task. 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.
Flooding also is killing many trees, preventing the roots from getting needed oxygen.
“We can see clearly they are starting to decline and go downhill,” said Ryan Armbrust, a state forest health specialist with the Kansas Forest Service.
The impact extends beyond trees, to the entire ecosystem. Armbrust said trees provide shade and homes for animals and reduce air pollution. That won’t come back until the next generation of trees.
He’s also worried about what will grow back in place of the lost trees. Instead of oak and hickory, it might be lesser trees or invasive species such as bush honeysuckle.
“We’re still going to be having impacts from that flood event for some time,” Armbrust said.