TOPEKA — The top Kansas parks administrator said Wednesday torrential rains that produced sustained flooding lat year had an estimated $11 million cumulative impact on budgets of the agency responsible for oversight of the state's recreational parks system.
Brad Loveless, secretary of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, said the agency would proceed with repairs in 2020 and continue the application process for Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster reimbursements. The state experienced flooding conditions for more than 250 days, especially in eastern Kansas, that limited visitor access and usage at the two dozen parks scattered across Kansas, he said.
"Cumulatively, we estimated the impact to be about $11 million on our budget," Loveless said. "The great majority is in repairs."
He said riprap used as a barrier at lakes and reservoirs, as well as paved and gravel surfaces in the parks system, were damaged due to the extended period of time that flooding occurred.
"It really undermined their integrity. So, we're going to have to replace quite a bit of that," the secretary said.
He told the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee the challenge of fixing damage would be conducted in three phases with the work starting in a couple months.
Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, urged Loveless to keep the 2020 Legislature informed about the need for state funding necessary to obtain federal disaster aid. The state wildlife department is working through the federal government in anticipation that reimbursement can cover three-fourths of the damage.
In terms of hunting and fishing trends, Loveless said Kansas was witnessing an overall decline among people engaged in those activities. There is decline of 3% to 5% annually in fishing and hunting licenses as enthusiasts grow more elderly, he said.
"It's significant because it doesn't seem to be stopping. It seems to be marching on," he said. "We're trying to reach out to groups that haven't traditionally been our targeted groups when it comes to fishing and hunting. We're finding some success there in terms of gender as well as ethnic groups that have pretty much been ignored."
He said the department would publish hunting and fishing regulations in Spanish within the next year.
The state is witnessing an increase in interest among visitors engaged in hiking, paddling and bird watching, he said.
"We're excited about that," he said. "There are changing attitudes about wildlife. Whereas a traditional attitude of: 'Wildlife is there for the taking, I use it in whatever manner I want.' Social attitudes are changing for a lot of people where they see it as more of a partnership with wildlife than a dominion over."