Outdoors

Jennison worries about future of outdoors-related funds

Robin Jennison with a bass he caught at Big Hill Lake.
Robin Jennison with a bass he caught at Big Hill Lake. The Wichita Eagle

Confirmed last week as Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism secretary, Robin Jennison has firm ideas on what needs to be done. Gov. Sam Brownback appointed him to the position in early January.

State parks

Jennison said parks will retain general fund money this year but worries deeply about the future. He said many facilities have slipped into disrepair as budgets have been tight for several years.

If they remain in disrepair, they may have to be replaced, which is much more expensive.

"We've got to find ways to market better to increase revenue or come up with a new way to fund the state parks," Jennison said. "I think it's remarkable what (state park managers) are doing with what money they've had, but we can't continue like this much longer."

Jennison said he'll investigate new ways of providing a steady stream of income for the parks.

He also wants to make the parks more accessible and appealing to Kansans who don't already use the parks.

One way might be a lodge at one of the larger state parks.

"Our cabins are popular but we only have about 99 spread out over all of our facilities," he said. "There are a lot of people out there who don't have motorhomes and they don't want to sleep in a tent."

Wildlife

Jennison said most of Kansas' fish and wildlife populations are in good shape.

While he wants to create more opportunities for residents and non-residents to hunt, he has concerns about taking things too far. Jennison said it's possible the quality of the state's deer herd could get hurt.

He also thinks the mule deer population around his ranch near Healy has declined, though there are parts of Kansas with too many whitetails.

"It's a fine line for an agency," he said, "and no matter what we try to do, the real problem is the access issue. I'd like to find a way to get hunters more access to areas with deer problems."

Tourism

Jennison wants to promote more attractions in Kansas, particularly in the Flint Hills.

"When you have something that's totally unique that's what you ought to be promoting," he said. "The Flint Hills are unique to Kansas and we're the only place in the country with that kind of prairie."

He said a possible resort-type facility with good equestrian opportunities may be in the works.

He's hoping to draw more than tourists from other states to Kansas attractions.

Jennison wants to get more Kansans out, too.

"One of the biggest problems with Kansas is our perception of ourselves," he said. "So many residents think we don't have anything anybody would want to see or do. But we really have so much to offer that's special."

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