Kansas state parks officials say that trail use is up markedly during the COVID-19 pandemic. As evidence, in Shawnee County, a pedestrian counter placed on the Gage Park Fitness Loop Trail recorded 7,163 passes during April of 2020. That’s more than passed the pedestrian counter when it was placed in Crestview Park along the Shunga Trail in April of 2019.
Skyline Park’s parking lot in Topeka has been full on warm weekend days, and park patrons have been requesting additional information on trails. Parks and trails across the state have provided a respite and a getaway during the stay at home order and for those still working from home.
“I’m elated that we have been able to provide an important quality of life amenity to Shawnee County residents during a challenging time,” said Tim Laurent, Shawnee County Parks + Recreation director.
All 28 Kansas state parks, 63 state fishing lakes, and more than 100 wildlife areas remain open to the public and will be popular destinations over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. From camping and horseback riding, to boating and disc golf, there’s no shortage of fun to be had at Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) areas, but visitors must remain steadfast in practicing social distancing, among other safety measures, to ensure these special places remain open and accessible to all.
“We want visitors to enjoy themselves, so long as social distancing is practiced,” Kansas State Parks director Linda Lanterman said. “Our staff have done an incredible job maintaining our parks, and ensuring that facilities remain open, but it’s ultimately up to the public to look out for each other and practice social distancing so we can all remain in good health and continue having these beautiful places to recreate.”
Here’s how visitors can safely enjoy their time at Kansas state parks over the holiday weekend and throughout the summer:
Practice social distancing, even on the water – While six feet is the standard measure for effective social distancing, maintaining a safe distance may look different while on a trail or on the water. Boaters – especially those recreating in or around coves – can practice social distancing by refraining from tying up to other vessels and instead anchoring vessels individually. Boating passengers should also refrain from moving between vessels.
Allow for ample time at boat ramps – Launching a vessel may take a little longer than normal. Plan ahead by having everything ready and packed on your boat before backing down the ramp. Many state park reservoirs and fishing lakes have multiple access points – visitors can benefit from knowing them ahead of time by referencing area maps at ksoutdoors.com. If a desired boat ramp is congested, consider launching at an alternate ramp or parking at a distance until the area clears.
Make reservations and purchases online – While state park staff are on duty to ensure Kansas’ state parks are safe, and that park facilities are regularly cleaned and disinfected, visitors are encouraged to conduct reservation and license purchase needs through KDWPT’s free mobile apps – CampIt KS and HuntFish KS. Campsite reservations can also be made on ReserveAmerica.com, and license purchases made on KSHuntFishCamp.com.
Keep to your camp – KDWPT-managed campsites are perfectly-suited to space visitors a safe distance apart. Visitors should use these designated areas to their advantage and keep family and friends safe by refraining from visiting other campsites or combining sites.
The wild spaces and fun places managed by KDWPT are intended to be enjoyed by all – help KDWPT keep these areas open by practicing social distancing and refraining from gathering in large groups.
For more on outdoor recreation opportunities in Kansas, visit ksoutdoors.com.
For more information on COVID-19 in Kansas, visit covid.ks.gov.
–Lee Hartman | Metro Voice
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