Legislators mull over idea of new state park in Kansas

FILE(WIBW/Phil Anderson)
Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 2:14 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A bill under consideration by Kansas Legislators would add a 27th state park in the Sunflower State, complete with a lake and more than 14 miles of trail.

House Bill 2331, which was requested for introduction by Representative Fred Gardner (R-Garnett) on behalf of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, would designate an area of Allen County as Lehigh Portland State Park.

Lehigh Portland would join Kansas’ 27 other state parks, which include Little Jerusalem Badlands, the Flint Hills trail, Kaw River park, Clinton Lake, Perry Lake, Milford Lake and Tuttle Creek.

The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks told legislators during a hearing that the site is home to a former cement plant and quarry along the banks of Elm Creek in Iola. The trails would consist of more than 2.5 miles of wide gravel trails and 12 miles of natural surface trails for mountain bikes, runners and hikers.

The KDWP also said a 138-acre lake sits on the property which is a mix of woodlands, meadows and native prairie.

According to the bill, the park would require $50,000 from the state’s Parks Fee Fund budget in Fiscal Year 2023 for the cost of title work, a survey of the 14-parcel property and an environmental assessment. Around $200,000 would be required between 2025 and 2027 for the development of a master plan to determine services.

Legislators also indicated that $5 million to $7 million would be required for design and building construction while another $129,600 would be used for two full-time KDWP positions at the park. The latter would be paid with 80% federal funds and 20% state funds.

Officials also noted that they have requested the full amount from the Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas Economic Development grant, however, verification of approval has yet to be received. If granted, the funds would cover the entire cost of the project.

The Bill was introduced in the Kansas House of Representatives in February and was referred to the Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources which held a hearing.

In late February, the Committee recommended the bill be passed and sent it to the House as a whole. However, the Committee of the Whole withdrew the bill from its calendar and passed it onto the Committee on Appropriations before it was referred back to the Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources in march.

A vote is expected on the bill in the coming months.

To read the full text of the bill, click HERE.