- Associated Press - Monday, December 17, 2018

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism wants to charge $50 a day for access to fragile rock formations at the state’s newest park.

The department is proposing a $50 permit for anyone who wants “backcountry access” in the Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park in Logan County, which is expected to open next year, the Wichita Eagle reported. The fee aims to preserve the rare geological attraction that features the state’s largest Niobrara chalk formation, according to department officials.

But the park’s landowner, The Nature Conservancy in Kansas, hasn’t approved the permit. The conservation nonprofit said it’s committed to keeping park access affordable.

“We have not yet agreed to special access permits or associated fees and plan to continue to work with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism to ensure all fees are reasonable,” the group posted on Facebook last week.

In 2016, the conservancy purchased 330 acres, which included Little Jerusalem, from a family that had owned the land for at least five generations. The conservancy agreed to make Little Jerusalem part of the state park system, in keeping with the wishes of the land’s former owner.

While the conservancy retains ownership of the land, Kansas’ parks department will manage the rock formations, which hold fossils and unique ecosystems.

Gerald Lauber, chair of the parks department’s commission that voted on the fee last week, said parts of the “park can’t withstand unfettered access.” The department wants to use the access permit to regulate the area and pay for staff to monitor visitors, ensuring there’s no damage to the rocks.

Park staff will act as guides for visitors who pay for the permit, said Linda Craghead, assistant secretary for the state’s parks department.

“It’s a guided tour that will go into the belly of the badlands,” Craghead said. “If they want to just come in and walk around and see the broad view of the badlands, no extra cost.”


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

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