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Mudfest nixed

With Ellis County in the grips of extreme drought, a recent act by Fort Hays State University should not go unnoticed.

Students who were looking forward to the 18th annual Mudfest scheduled for Saturday went without this year.

"We just felt that in the best interest of conservation, you know, we are very short of water now, and Hays is putting water restrictions on the citizens," said Ron Haag, FHSU's director of campus recreation and intramural programs.

We have sympathy for students who tend to take advantage of the fun-filled, messy event as a stress-reliever prior to finals week. Hundreds of young adults usually crowd the pits east of Cunningham Hall either to watch or take part in knee-deep-in-mud volleyball, tug-of-war and slip-and-slide. Mudfest also serves as a fundraiser for some lucky charitable organization, although none had been named for this year.

Still, the drought has shown no sign of abating. Rainfall in Hays amounted to just 0.91 of an inch in April, 1.2 inches less than normal. A high of 98 degrees was reported Wednesday afternoon at the Kansas State University Agricultural Research Center, smashing the previous record for May 7 by 5 degrees. And there is a complete ban on outdoor watering between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. daily in Hays.

As Mudfest requires a fire hose to be run during the day for three days leading up to Mudfest, and garden hoses are on during the event, it seemed at odds with current restrictions.

"We can't justify using that kind of water," said Brittany Sheehan, a graduate assistant in the intramural office.

As a partner in the same dry-as-a-bone community, we thank FHSU staff for the decision and students for going without. It was a good move.

On the other hand, it also is a good move to go ahead with plans to fill the public swimming pools despite the dry conditions. Both Wilson Pool and Hays Aquatic Park provide a necessary quality-of-life measure for tens of thousands of patrons each summer. The approximate 3.5 million gallons of water total used at both facilities has an immediate return on investment considering the family-friendly environment where children can beat the heat and have something to do while school is out.

The two positions are not contradictory. Canceling Mudfest is more akin to the restrictions residents face watering their lawns -- even less as it is just one day.

We hope the students were OK with the university's good-neighbor decision. We would recommend that if they're around for the summer months, they should take advantage of the public pools. Season passes are reasonably priced and available either at the Hays Recreation Commission office or Hays Aquatic Park.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

son of Yvonne Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net