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Some of the 24 state parks in Kansas could face the ultimate cutback – closure – as officials deal with worsening budget woes and cuts in operating costs, according to the Hutchinson News.
Officials said closing park gates would be the last resort for solving budget woes at the Kansas Department of Wildlife. But last August, the agency targeted six parks for possible closure, one of which was Kanopolis State Park in Ellsworth County – the first state park in Kansas.
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius previously said she wants to avoid closing parks. But state funding has dipped the last few years, affecting upkeep and the hiring of seasonal help.
In fact, Kansas ranks last in the nation for funding parks, according to the National Association of State Park Directors. Only 15% of the $6.5 million park budget comes from the state general fund, said Jerry Hover, director of state parks. Ten years ago, it was 65%.
Hover said officials have raised park fees three times since 2002 in attempts to make up for the shortfall, but the fee hikes haven’t lessened budget woes as the number of park users is declining.
“I’m sure the higher prices have something to do with it,” Schwartz said. “Gas also is more expensive, and it’s more expensive to pull a trailer.”