Flooding Delays Opening For Parks

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(Host) The flooding of Lake Champlain this spring has delayed the opening of a number of state parks along the shore.

Six did not open as scheduled on Memorial Day weekend. And floodwaters are just now receding enough to reveal the extent of the damage – and to allow clean up to begin.

VPR’s Samantha Fields has more.

(Fields) The six state parks that are closed because of flooding all fall under Rob Peterson’s jurisdiction. He’s a regional manager for the Vermont State Parks.

(Peterson) "We’re dealing with a lot of debris and some erosion problems. We have parts of Burton Island that have 16 to 20 inches of shale that have washed up on shore. Sand Bar has a beach that’s larger than any they’ve ever experienced there. Areas up to 60 feet where sand has been pushed in where it’s never been before."

(Fields) State employees and volunteers are scrambling now to try to get the parks cleaned up and open by the end of the month.

Craig Whipple is the director of the Vermont State Parks.

(Whipple) "We’re trying hard to have all of this ready, at least to some limited capacity, by the 4th of July weekend. That’s when the peak of the season really starts, and we want to have everything available for people by then."

(Fields) So far, Whipple says, the closures haven’t cost the parks too much in revenue this year,  because this isn’t their busy time.

Sand Bar, in Milton, is the most visited state park in Vermont. Depending on the weather, it generally brings in around $120,000 a year.

(Whipple) "Sand Bar being out of commission for an entire summer is significant. Being out of commission this time of year, much less significant. We estimated roughly there could have been about a $3,000 revenue loss because Sand Bar wasn’t operating on Memorial Day weekend."

(Fields) State parks welcome the majority of their visitors between the last week of June and the last week of August.

The day-use parks are typically open through Labor Day weekend. About half of the parks that allow camping stay open until Columbus Day weekend.

Whipple says the state might consider extending the season if the weather is good this fall, to make up for the late start.

(Whipple) "We essentially have to make a business-like decision. Is there enough revenue to support the staff we need to keep the services open? And we’ll be making that kind of analysis later on this summer. Let’s see how this goes. But we have talked about that."

(Fields) For now, 46 of the 52 state parks are open for business. And if the lake continues to recede, the others should be open in a few weeks.

For VPR News, I’m Samantha Fields.

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