By MIKE CORN
Operating under an abundance of caution, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks has delayed hiring seasonal employees for the state parks it operates.
That's not to say the workers won't be hired, said acting parks chief Linda Lanterman, but the delay is being made to see what -- if any -- additional cuts might be made in the agency's budget.
"I've asked our staff to hold off because the Legislature is still in session and they could cut more," she said.
Because parks rely on money from the state general fund, any action by the Legislature can have a big effect.
Budget uncertainties also are delaying the launch of an online reservation system for the state's parks.
The process hasn't been stopped, both she and area parks supervisor Troy Brown said, but rather delayed.
Part of the difficulty rests with the sheer volume of work that needs to be done to get Kansas parks online and actively operating under the online reservation system.
"Things have taken longer than what we have anticipated," said Brown, who is based in Hays and supervises parks in the western third of the state.
Because of that, it's not possible to get everything in place in time for this year's camping season, which generally starts with the Memorial Day weekend.
As a result, KDWP is planning to use pilot parks to see how the system works and what, if any, adjustments need to be made.
In the western third of the state, Scott State Lake will serve as the pilot park, Brown said. Parks also will be selected for the central and eastern portions of the state.
The pilot parks, along with cabins, will be the online reservation system this year -- perhaps as soon as June.
If all goes well, the rest of the parks could be up and online either later this year or in time for next year's camping season.
That also means regular reservations -- those made after the first of the year -- will stand.
"Everybody who made a reservation the old fashioned way, no change," Brown said.
Lanterman hopes to get the outdoor registration system up and running as soon as possible.
"Anytime you can get national exposure on a national website, that works for me," she said.