Typically, Labor Day weekend sends fewer people to Cheney State Park than the two other holiday periods of the season — Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.
This year, Labor Day could be tops.
The camping sites with utilities have “been sold out for a while,” said Cheney State Park Ranger Mitch Schwartz on Thursday. “We still do have a few primitive sites,” he said, referring to campsites without utilities.
Overall, staff expects a busy weekend.
Spring rains and flooding swamped some state parks, including Cheney State Park, forestalling Memorial Day recreation. Some areas and features continued to be closed over the July 4 holiday.
“You wouldn’t think the lake is flooded anymore,” Schwartz said. “All the standing water’s gone.”
“The whole park is back open,” Cheney State Park declared — in boldface print — on ksoutdoors.com, the website for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.
“Some areas have been under water for some time, so they look kind of desolate, but give our maintenance guys some time and things will look better. They’ve been working like mad to get all of the electrical pedestals back up and going so thank them if you see them This week is spent replacing the site posts as quite a few of them floated away,” the Cheney State Park post said.
The National Weather Service forecast for the region calls for likely thunderstorms during the closing days of this week, but with sunny skies Sunday and Monday.
“If it rains, it rains,” Schwartz said.
The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism announced ahead of the holiday weekend that all state parks are open.
Some parks were not affected by high water and others were affected to varying degrees, according to Ron Kaufman, director of information services for the KDWPT.
In some cases, boat ramps, campsites and swim beaches “may still be unusable,” but many campgrounds and cabins are ready with more sites opening daily, according to the department’s website.
Parks that are open, but with some features closed or damaged include: El Dorado State Park, Clinton State Park, Elk City State Park, Fall River State Park, Flint Hills Trail State Park, Glen Elder State Park, Green Recreational Trail State Park, Hillsdale State Park, Kanopolis State Park, Milford State Park, Perry State Park, Pomona State Park, Prairie Dog State Park, Prairie Spirit Trail State Park, Tuttle Creek State Park, Webster State Park and Wilson State Park.
Waiting for estimate
The department did not receive extra aid for debris cleanup from the flooding, and it will take “much longer” to get an estimate of the overall impact, Kaufman wrote in a response. At some parks, high water still conceals potential damage, he said.
“No decisions have been made regarding seeking state aid. We’re watching our revenues and any estimates of what we might qualify for from FEMA are a long way off since we can’t make a full assessment of the damages,” according to Kaufman.
The department has initiated the process of applying for federal assistance.
Sand Hills and State Fair
Cheney State Park and Sand Hills State Park both are in Reno County, but Sand Hills State, 2 miles northeast of Hutchinson, escaped damage from the flood.
Its proximity to the Kansas State Fairgrounds makes it a popular campground during the State Fair. As of Wednesday, all 64 campsites with utilities at Sand Hills were reserved for the first weekend of the State Fair, opening Friday, Sept. 6.
People eager for a campsite were encouraged to check for any cancellations. Also, some sites are available for the second weekend of the State Fair, which closes Sunday, Sept. 15.