Vermont Eager to Reopen State Parks - NECN

Vermont Eager to Reopen State Parks



    (NECN: Jack Thurston, Milton, Vt.) - At the Sandbar State Park in Milton, Vt., Sam Ashline was up to her eyeballs in picnic tables Monday. She had dozens and dozens to paint. "Hopefully I'll have some help very soon because I don't think I'll be able to get all these done all by myself!" she said.

    Ashline has to get that painting task done by the weekend because the Sandbar State Park is finally opening for the season. "It's definitely nice up here," Ashline said.

    The park, which is nestled alongside a picturesque bend in Lake Champlain, is a month behind in its opening schedule. It was completely underwater this spring when Lake Champlain surged to never-before-seen levels, drowning the park. You could barely even see the barbecue grills.

    The water alongside the Sandbar State Park has now gone below flood stage, and Vt. regional parks manager Rob Peterson is glad. "We anticipate with the weather we're expecting this week for things to keep going down, and that's music to our ears," he said.

    Vermont has 52 state parks, but Sandbar is one of five that are still closed because of the costly damage the flooding left behind.

    Crews are now confident they'll get those remaining five sites open by this weekend, a busy one because of Independence Day celebrations.

    Workers have had to essentially rebuild a beach in Milton. "It does take a lot of hard work to make these places beautiful, but there's a lot going for them naturally," Peterson said.

    The Sandbar State Park sees 50,000 visits a year and generates around $120,000 in revenue, according to Vermont's Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation.

    Federal disaster relief money will help the parks pay for cleanup, but not for lost revenue. The state does not know exactly how many thousands of dollars were lost in the past couple of weeks, but officials say it's so early in the season, they can make up lost ground.

    "Once the kids get out of school, that's when the action starts," explained Chuck Murray, the ranger for the Sandbar State Park. "We're going to be ready for that. We look forward to seeing everyone like normal."

    As for Sam Ashline, she's looking forward to coming to the park on a day off and kicking back on one of her freshly-painted picnic tables.

    She'll have earned it. Asked what she's most looking forward to about summer, Ashline answered, "Just enjoying the outdoors!"

    Click here for more information on the Vermont State Parks