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Parks’ usage ‘ and revenue ‘ on the rise

Numbers indicating good things for the Harrison County Parks Dept. were revealed during a special meeting of its board Feb. 8. Board members also heard reports that include wish lists from the property managers.
Larry Shickles, board chairman, said the parks and recreation department has been ‘so bogged down with projects’ the past few years, referring to the Morvin’s Landing project near Mauckport and the Discovery Center, which opened Oct. 29 in downtown Corydon; however, he believes the board is getting an earlier start on its busy season this year.
During the overview of the department, it was noted there was an overall increase in revenue of 21 percent for 2016 over the previous year.
South Harrison Park near Elizabeth, with a 35-percent increase, thanks to the re-opening of its pool in 2015, led the way followed by Harrison Poolside Park in Corydon, which saw revenue increase by 29 percent. Based on dollar amounts, Buffalo Trace Park at Palmyra had the largest revenue total, $240,789.
Rand Heazlitt, superintendent of the parks department, said people are making online bookings earlier each year.
‘In 2016, there was a 5-percent increase in January early bookings over 2015,’ he said, while January of this year ‘saw a revenue increase of 53 percent from early booking.’
Pleased that the department added the use of online booking, Heazlitt said each of the past 3-1/2 years have been record years in its use.
‘The only year not a record was when the South Harrison pool was closed,’ he said.
Heazlitt also noted that revenue generated from use of the department’s two pools is ‘trending down’ due to many of the schools in the area using a balanced calendar.
And despite more use, utilities, overall, for the parks have only risen by 2 percent since 2015.
Buffalo Trace Park, which accounted for 72 percent of the total revenue of all parks, offers cabins, modern and primitive camping, shelter houses and beach boats and also has lake swimming.
Heazlitt said, ‘surprisingly,’ shelter rentals were up 60 percent over the past two years and beach usage was ‘phenomenal’ with boat rentals up 54 percent.
The modern campsites brought in more than $100,000, with July and October as the best months, Heazlitt said, while primitive camping saw a 27-percent increase in revenue over 2015.
Rental of the park’s two cabins increased by 15 percent, with most bookings occurring in March, June, July and October.
Wayne Johnson, who manages the park, said there’s ‘a line between wants and needs.’
The park’s trucks are held together with duct tape, he said, and the boats keep getting welded in order to be used. He added there would be ‘no problem’ to rent out any additional cabins that might be added to the property, and he and Heazlitt believe a camp store, selling items such as charcoal, toothpaste, hot dogs, soft drinks and worms, would do well.
Johnson also manages the 1.2-acre site in New Salisbury, acquired from the United Methodist Church along with west side of S.R. 135 that includes a log cabin. Heazlitt said the cabin is the last place in Harrison County where Gen. John Hunt Morgan stayed overnight.
‘At some point, we need a name’ for the property, Shickles said.
At Harrison Poolside Park, the May & Joe Rhoads Memorial Pool is the main source of income, with little income from rental of the shelter house. Volleyball and tennis courts are seldom used.
Heazlitt said swim revenue was up 9 percent from 2015 while revenue from concessions was up 32 percent. (The parks department did not operate concession sales in 2015 but resumed that responsibility last year.)
Ray Dennis, who manages this site as well as Hayswood Nature Reserve, Walter Q. Gresham Park and the Battle of Corydon, said the pool, which is nearing 50, needs painted and has holes requiring patching. He added water parks ‘are the going thing now’ rather than ordinary pools.
Shickles questioned if the pool, which is close to needing to be renovated or replaced, is still at a good location, to which Dennis said no.
Dennis said if it needed to remain in the Corydon area, he believes Hayswood Nature Reserve, which is second in usage after Buffalo Trace, would be a better location. That prompted discussion about parking at Hayswood.
‘The walking trail is getting more use all the time,’ Heazlitt said. ‘Sometimes the parking lot is full.’
Dennis added the park could use some additional playground equipment and a shelter house by the lake would be nice, especially since ‘family reunions are big at that park.’
Gresham park, in Lanesville, doesn’t offer much but a shelter house and some playground equipment, some of which is in bad shape, Dennis said.
Heazlitt said the property ‘looks really sad and tired; it needs to be redone from top to bottom.’
As a wish for the Battle park, Dennis said a bathroom would be nice although the parks department is ‘kind of limited’ on what it can do at the site, which includes a log cabin and small walking trail.
In the south end of the county, Jesse Sater manages South Harrison Park, Noe’s Rest Park and Morvin’s Landing, which was recently acquired.
Revenue at SH Park is generated from use of the pool, rental of shelter houses and modern and primitive camping.
Heazlitt said modern camping revenue for 2016 was up 43 percent over 2015 but primitive camping saw a 27-percent decrease in income.
The parks department has a goal of adding some cabins and a paved walking trail similar to those at Buffalo Trace Park but hasn’t been able to generate much support from county officials who control the purse strings.
Shickles said he plans to seek funding for the project again this year.
Heazlitt said playground equipment from SH Park would be moved to Noe’s Rest Park when renovations are made.
Because the Harrison County Discovery Center, which is overseen by Barb Ehinger, opened late last year, there were no comparison figures.
Ehinger, who started her position Jan. 1, noted she has developed a scavenger hunt-style workshop for students visiting the museum to use. She had mentioned at a previous meeting that several state standards are met, making the museum a natural place for school study trips.
Shickles asked the other board members to come to the next meeting, which will be this evening (Wednesday) at 7, with possible dates to tour the parks. He also will extend an invitation to the county commissioners and council members to go along to see the sites.
The board will continue to receive suggestions for park properties during the next several months before updating its six-year plan.