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No lights at the Cedar Bluff inn this year

12/13/2013

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

CEDAR BLUFF RESERVOIR -- The lights won't be shining brightly over Cedar Bluff State Park this year, the victim of tight budgets and a lack of personnel.

But park manager Chris Smith hopes it can at least be resurrected on an every-other-year basis.

"We want to try to do it every other year," Smith said of displaying miles of lights along the state park as part of a joint project between the Diehards, a group of park supporters and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.

Personnel from KDWP&T put up the lights, a week's-long process on either side of the lighting display. Plus, the light display adds anywhere from $500 to $1,000 to the department's light bill.

Proceeds from the event go to the friend's group to pay for programs at the park.

The decision to skip this year was made because there's no money in the budget for summer help.

"We need to save every penny we can," Smith said.

The park's also lost its AmeriCorps worker.

Putting the lights up is a drain on resources as well, he said.

"It's very time consuming to put them all up," Smith said, adding crews spend nearly a month putting them up prior to several days of public displays.

Then they all have to come down.

While Smith hopes the lights will return to Cedar Bluff next year, he won't be sure of that until he's able to see the financial situation facing state parks.

Last year's visitation also was down, with only approximately 3,500 taking the tour.

At its peak, nearly 5,000 visitors toured the park to see the lights, drinking hot chocolate or riding on tractor-pulled trailers for a tour.

He's not dismissing that number of people, but he's not sure why the numbers were down last year.

"It's just not something we can continue every year," Smith said. "We're off for this year, but we'll look at it for next year."