- Associated Press - Saturday, June 28, 2014

STRONG CITY, Kan. (AP) - It’s been a year of trial and tribulation at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in central Kansas, ranging from flooding, termites, federal budget cuts and even surly buffalo.

“Everything hit at once,” said Wendy Lauritzen, superintendent of the 10,483-acre preserve in the Flint Hills in Chase County.

Some of the places on the preserve that were closed are expected to reopen, but other buildings and roads remained closed, The Wichita Eagle reported (http://bit.ly/1pBCioX ).

Heavy rains last summer caused much of the troubles, closing one of the roads that carry guests to the preserve and springs bubbling up in strange places, such as the visitors center parking lot. And while workers were cleaning mold caused by the rains at the ranch house, they found electrical problems and termites in several of the 13 historic buildings, along with boards “so rotten the contractors could stick their fingers through,” Lauritzen said.

The house was closed because of safety concerns. It would take “a couple million or more dollars” to fix the house, which is not in the preserve’s annual operating budget of about $947,000, she said.

“We are barely covering the permanent personnel salaries and fixed utility costs,” she said.

A planned project to replace the barn’s floor boards and joists is underway, along with the installation of permanent exhibits in the visitors center.

Handicapped parking by the barn is closed during construction, so access to the park is restricted to walking.

And some of those walkers are being charged by a few of the younger male buffalo that live on the preserve. Hikers are being told to keep at least 100 yards from the herd, stay on the trails and to not attempt to pet the animals.

“We think they are teenagers who are charging,” Lauritzen said. “We don’t know yet if it is out of curiosity or truly an aggressive behavior. But it is something to be cautious of.”

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com

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