Cutbacks mean more 'roughing it'

Monday, July 7, 2003

After this weekend, the term "roughing it" will take on added meaning at the state park locations in Southwest Nebraska.

Because of budget cutbacks, the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission will do less maintenance and mowing at 85 state parks and recreation areas, including six locations in the southwest region.

"It's the biggest cutback I've seen in the 27 years I've been doing this job," said Irv Long, the Reservoir Superintendent for Southwest Nebraska. In this area, the most severe cuts will be at Champion Mill in Chase County and Rock Creek Lake in Dundy County. For the rest of the year, 50 percent of the mowing and maintenance budget at the historic Champion Mill has been cut. As a result, Long said the mill will open only on weekends and by special appointment.

Rock Creek Lake has been even harder hit. The maintenance budget there has been cut by 60 percent, meaning that mowing and cleanup will be limited for the rest of the summer season.

Other park locations feeling the pinch will be Enders Reservoir, Swanson Lake, Hugh Butler Lake and Harry Strunk Lake. All of the state-maintained areas at the lakes will have 5 percent cutbacks in their maintenance budgets.

"We will still be doing mowing in the lake recreation areas, but it won't be as extensive as it was previously," the reservoir superintendent said.

As far as the lakes are concerned, the biggest change will be in the Macklin Bay area at Swanson Lake, where the shower building will be closed after the Fourth of July.

While lake visitors will have to rough it -- and campers will have to find other ways to wash away the grime -- this area will have it a little better than other parts of the state. That's because of the crews from the Work Ethic Camp, who lend a helping hand with tree trimming, weed cutting and clean-up tasks.

Others are welcome to help, too. The state is developing a trash pick-up program at the parks, much like the Adopt-A-Highway program operated by the Nebraska Department of Roads.

The result of all this?

Conditions at the state recreation areas are going to be more primitive than they have been in recent years, but if you're willing to "rough it" -- by walking through weeds, skipping showers and heeding nature's call behind a bush -- park visits can still be an entertaining, but itchy, escape from the daily routine.

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