This content is being provided for free as a public service to our readers during the coronavirus outbreak. Please support local journalism by subscribing to CJOnline at www.cjonline.com/subscribe.
The 2020 Kansas Archery in the Schools State Tournament in Hutchinson is just one of the several major outdoors-themed events that will be affected in the coming months by the spread of the coronavirus.
The good news, however, is that Kansas’ 28 state parks will remain open for the foreseeable future.
Nadia Reimer, chief of public affairs for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism in Pratt, said on Thursday that all state parks, fishing lakes and wildlife areas will remain open to the public amid the COVID-19 pandemic, though the agency’s administrative offices will close for about two weeks beginning on Monday, March 23.
"State park staff will work in limited capacities to ensure Kansas’ 28 state parks remain open to the public, and that public-use areas are regularly cleaned and disinfected," Reimer said. "The department has no intent to close spring seasons, and all current license and permit requirements, as well as length and creel limits, will remain in effect."
The aforementioned archery tournament, originally slated for April 3-4 on the Kansas State Fairgrounds, has been canceled due to concerns of the virus and its potential impact on assembly and travel, according to Aaron Austin, outdoor skills and recruitment coordinator for the KDWPT.
"Since the inception of the Kansas Archery in the Schools Program, the safety and welfare of the public, the school system and their staff, the students and their families have been our top priority," Austin said in an email. "The CDC recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States. Further, we have been directed by the Governor that all state-sponsored meetings or events of 30 or more people are to be canceled. With all preventative measures considered, we have made the decision to cancel the Kansas Archery in the Schools State tournament."
Events on the water aren't safe from rescheduling, either, as the Kansas BASS Nation postponed its Mr. Bass fishing tournament originally scheduled for March 21-22. A makeup date will be determined at a later time.
Organizer Danny Barrett said via a Facebook Live video to KBN members that he planned to hold onto entry forms and checks until whenever the event does take place, but if those who entered wished to cancel, they would need to contact him at 620-200-8723 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The KBN also postponed its college state championship set for March 28-29 and its high school/youth qualifier events April 4 and 5, respectively. All three of those events were set to take place on Wilson Reservoir, located between Hays and Salina on Interstate 70. This marks the second straight year the college state championship has been rescheduled, after extreme high flood waters last year at Perry Reservoir caused the entire field to go fishless. The event was later moved to Council Grove City Lake, where Kansas State’s Josh Flynn and Zac Hopkins ultimately won the state title.
"We are in a holding pattern before announcing the reschedule date or whether or not the Milford Lake high school and junior tournaments can run," KBN youth director Travis Burch told The Topeka Capital-Journal.
Burch said despite the disappointment of not being able to compete as scheduled, the young anglers he looks after were showing a great deal of resilience.
"They are all really disappointed in everything getting canceled, but for most it’s not keeping them from fishing by themselves or with their families," Burch said. "The CDC actually recommended outdoors events like fishing because you're in the outdoors in isolation or with just one or two others enjoying fresh air.
"That being said, we couldn't justify all the interactions with safety checks, weigh-ins, et cetera. Too many chances to spread the possibility of the virus. Lots of parents and grandparents boat captain and/or attend these events. Kansas BASS Nation board members, including myself, couldn't live with the 'What if someone got it and died because of us?' There will be plenty of time to have tournaments. The best thing to do is wait 'til it's safe."
Several anglers of all ages were enjoying some extra time outdoors in Council Grove earlier this week, where Phil Taunton reported seeing several kids, fathers and grandfathers fishing at the Council Grove Reservoir spillway on Wednesday.
"Most are fishing for saugeye, walleye or anything that will bite, but a 45-pound flathead was caught downstream a bit by a guy fishing for walleye and crappie," said Taunton, host of the "What’s In Outdoors" radio show on KVOE-AM (1400), based out of Emporia. "One good thing concerning the pandemic is hopefully it will bring more families together!"
The April 25 Special Olympics Benefit Fishing Tournament at Clinton Reservoir has also been postponed, according to Kansas Crappie Club organizer Joe Bragg, of Lawrence.
Bragg, a professional crappie angler who works as a fishing guide in the area, said the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 outbreak has already affected his small business, as well as others.
"As far as guiding goes, I am definitely one of the small businesses feeling the crunch as people panic and want to sit on what they have for cash, but I will give people the option to cancel and return deposits to help people through."
He said that since the national championship for the American Crappie Trail, which he planned to fish in, was postponed to June 4-6, he would begin offering parents who were stuck at home with kids guided trips for $50.
"It basically just covers my fuel expenses," Bragg said.
The KCC's first regular season tournament is tentatively slated for May 3 at El Dorado Lake. More info on the Kansas Crappie Club is available at https://www.kansascrappieclub.com/.
Other outdoors-themed events that have been delayed or canceled by the coronavirus pandemic include:
• The Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission canceled its March 26 meeting at the Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka.
Regulations that were scheduled to be voted on during the public hearing portion of the March 26 meeting will be rescheduled for a future date. Parties interested in providing comment on public hearing items may do so electronically by contacting commissioners. Their contact info is available at https://tinyurl.com/rdb833t/.
• The Flint Hills Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation banquet scheduled for April 4 at 612 US-56 highway in Council Grove has been rescheduled to Sept. 26 because of concerns of the spread of the coronavirus.
Any tickets already purchased will still be honored. For those who can't make it on that date but have already purchased tickets or sponsorships, contact the Flint Hills QUWF at 785-410-4593 or online at https://www.fhquwf.com/.
• The 19th annual National Wild Turkey Federation Flint Hills Gobblers' Spring Turkey Hunting Clinic and Hunters Ed Class on March 28 at Dry Creek Sporting Goods in Emporia has been canceled because of health concerns with the coronavirus pandemic.
UPDATE (9:30 p.m. Friday, March 20)
The U.S. Army Corps on Engineers Kansas City District announced on Friday that its managed campgrounds will shut down indefinitely.
Reservations have been canceled through May 15 and closures are set to be re-evaluated at that time, according to a news release. Individuals with paid reservations will be contacted by email and full refunds will automatically be processed by Recreation.gov with no cancellation fees. Individuals should not attempt to contact Recreation.gov to request a refund as that will lead to a cancellation fee being charged, the news release said.
In addition, visitor centers, beaches, special events, and USACE-sponsored events such as shore sweeps, interpretive programs, Kids to Parks, Earth Day events, public meetings and other public gatherings have been closed and/or put on hold until further notice.
USACE is maintaining access to its projects by keeping some day use facilities and lake access areas open. Boat ramps in the Kansas City District will remain open; however, courtesy docks will not be available. All areas are subject to evolving conditions related to COVID-19 and decisions may be made locally to close additional areas, the release said.
Lessees and marina operators can operate unimpeded and should be contacted directly for current hours and conditions regarding COVID-19.
A complete list of recreation areas is available at www.CorpsLakes.us.