(Host) State park rangers and volunteers are working quickly to try to reopen parks that have been closed because of spring flooding. With summer-like weather, officials say the parks can’t open fast enough. VPR’s Kirk Carapezza has more.
(Carapezza) Park Ranger Chuck Murray stands with his back to the traffic on Route 2. He’s leading a group of volunteers who are picking up debris and trash at Sand Bar State Park.
Murray says that ever since Lake Champlain flooded the park last month it’s been impossible to do any clean up because the water has been too high.
(Murray) "It’s just now down far enough that we can get in there and start working. Picking up driftwood and trash and everything that the lake threw in here, we have to throw it back out again. I think we’re looking at another month before we get close to opening."
(Carapezza) Sand Bar is Vermont’s busiest ‘day-use’ park. In summer, it’s the place to be because of its 2,000 foot beach. But this season it’s one of six parks still closed due to spring floods.
Craig Whipple is in charge of Vermont State Parks. He says the lake is finally starting to cooperate.
(Whipple) "The waters are receding much more quickly than they had right at the beginning of this event so with each day we become more and more optimistic about when things will be cleaned up and open for people."
(Carapezza) He’s encouraging people to be patient and visit other state parks that haven’t been affected by floodwaters.
Whipple says the park system’s tax support is down significantly. But he’s confident that entrance fees will help to pick up the slack.
(Whipple) "What happens when the economy declines is that quite often interest in state parks and other parks increases. For a couple reasons, one is that we tend to offer a little less expensive vacation option. And in times of stress – economic or otherwise – people tend to revert to more traditional activities and things that they used to do as a family years ago – or even a generation ago."
(Carapezza) Whipple says attendance at state parks jumped 15-percent last year. And – once the water goes down – he’s expecting similar gains in 2011. He says camping reservations and pre-season sales are ‘way up.’
For VPR News, I’m Kirk Carapezza.
Are you planning to visit the parks along Lake Champlain once the state reopens them? Has the extreme weather and flooding thrown a wrench into your weekend plans? Let us know in the comments section below.