By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

CEDAR BLUFF RESERVOIR -- It's probably best not to call him the Grinch who stole Christmas, but he's probably feeling a bit green over the cancellation of the annual lights over Cedar Bluff State Park.

The event had to be canceled this year, said park manager Chris Smith, because of the prospect for cuts in the park's seasonal employee budget.

Also, Cedar Bluff is right in the middle of converting one of its toadstool picnic sites into a cabin, which is taking much of the park ranger and maintenance supervisor's time.

While the lights are a joint project between the Diehards, a group of park supporters, and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, it's the KDWP personnel who install them.

That's a time-intensive, back-breaking project, requiring the attention of most of the park personnel in the month leading up to the display.

Smith said they also hope to be working on the installation of new playground equipment in the coming days.

A bid on the equipment is being sought and the hope is there will be enough to buy another piece of equipment to expand the playground. There's already been a new piece of equipment installed.

The new playground equipment will be installed across from the Butterfield Campground.

"Our seasonal (worker budget) hasn't been cut, but we're expecting it," Smith said.

As a result, they're holding back on spending the money -- saving it for the peak season when campers and other park users are active. On Tuesday, the cold and windy weather prevented anyone from using the park or the lake, other than to observe a large deer herd in a refuge area below the dam.

Smith didn't like having to make the decision to cancel the lights this year,.

"It's not that we're not going to do it again," he was quick to point out. "We're in a bind this year."

This would have been the fourth year of the lights, with nearly 3,800 people turning out over the course of of six days to see the more than 7 miles of lights.

"The whole event has grown slightly," he said. 'It's continued to increase each year."

A year earlier, about 3,000 people turned out.

"We will shoot for next year," Smith said. "It's not that we're not going to do it anymore. We've had a lot of people asking about it. It's a neat deal. We'll shoot for next year."