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Archive for Saturday, March 6, 2004

State puts Circle K park plan on hold until ‘05

March 6, 2004

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— A proposal to develop a major state park in southwestern Kansas has been put off until next year.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' leading natural resource officials on Friday asked her to delay until next year a $440,000 budget request that would have been used to retire debt on bonds used for the purchase of the Circle K Ranch in Edwards County.

"This is too important and complicated to rush to completion," said Joe Harkins, director of the Kansas Water Office. "We can use the next eight months to complete plans and submit a recommendation to the governor and Legislature in January 2005."

The 7,000-acre ranch is currently owned by the cities of Hays and Russell, and has 57 irrigation wells -- most of them about a mile from the Arkansas River.

The state wants to buy the ranch and shut down its wells in order to stabilize groundwater levels and increase flow in the Arkansas River from Kinsley to Great Bend.

The state would then use the land for recreational uses such as hunting, birding and hiking with some land leased for grazing and agriculture.

Some Edwards County residents oppose the state's plan to take over the land.

In a news release from the state, officials said that between now and January, the state could do more planning for the project.

The Kansas Department of Agriculture's Division of Water Resources will develop a management plan for the water resources, and Department of Wildlife and Parks will provide a management plan of the Circle K property, the officials said.

While those plans proceed, the state and cities of Hays and Russell will continue discussions about the potential sale. No final price tag had been announced.

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