Imagine lying on the beach, the gentle summer breeze caressing your face as you relax and listen to children splash in the water. In the distance is the whir of a motorboat pulling a skier.
Nearby, people chuckle as they cook hamburgers and steaks, filling the air with a wonderful barbecued meat scent that only warm summer air can bring.
That?s the kind of relaxation many people have enjoyed at East Park for the past 40 years. The three parks in the county ? East Park, West Park and Camp Hawk ? are celebrating a 40th anniversary of sorts.
Although West Park was established around 1938, East Park officially opened 40 years ago, said Kass Miller, director of Harvey County Parks. He guesses the train of thought was the parks department was formed when East Park was established.
Later, Camp Hawk, which used to be a Girl Scout camp, was given to either the recreation center or YMCA, and then the county took it over, Miller said.
?I?m just learning this history by going through board minutes of years past,? Miller said.
In conjunction with the anniversary, a variety of events have been planned. These events started in April and continue through July 25. The schedule for the remainder of the summer is:
? June 6 and 7: State-sponsored ?Free Fishing Weekend?
? June 13: Movie under the stars, dusk in East Park
? June 13: Fishings Future Family Fishing Clinic at West Park
? June 20: Free camping for dad
? June 20: Jam Night, 7 p.m. at West Park
? June 21: Father?s Day, build a bird feeder for dad
? June 27: Movie Under the Stars, dusk in West Park
? July 4 and 5: Washers Tournament at West Park
? July 4: Luminary Lighting at East Park
? July 11: Fireside Chat at 7 p.m. in East Park
? July 18, 19: Mud Volley?ball Tournament, East Park
? July 18: Jam Night, 7 p.m., West Park
? July 25: Fire Side Chat, 7 p.m., West Park
For more information, like them on Facebook, call 316-283-5420 or visit www.harveycounty.com/departments/parks.
?We want people to learn about our parks ? that there?s more to do than just camping and fishing,? Miller said.
For instance, naturalist Carol Dilts conducts the Fireside Chats and has a different subject each month, Miller said.
?She develops different programs each summer,? Miller said. ?It?s a great family event.?
The topic for the 7 p.m. June 13 program is ?Wings and Stings and Tadpole Tails,? which will be at the East Park Egret Shelter. This program is about dragonflies, mosquitoes, tadpoles and pond life. Dilts, who was the first naturalist in Kansas, usually brings animals to the chats and does a demonstration. At the conclusion of each Fireside Chat, participants roast marshmallows.
?That?s always fun for the little ones,? Miller said.
Earlier in the year, events included a Family Kick Ball Tournament, Musical Pot Luck and an Easter Egg Hunt, the first the parks have ever done.
?We had a lot of people show up for (the egg hunt),? Miller said.
Only family-friendly movies will be shown at the Movie Under the Stars.
?People can come out with lawn chairs and watch a movie,? Miller said.
The parks department is bringing music to the parks again. For example, on the third Saturday of each month, there?s a jam night at West Park. Years ago, there was a bluegrass festival at that park.
?Our goal is to get where it?s a festival again,? Miller said.
Miller?s favorite event in the parks is Catch a Special Thrill (CAST), which is every June at East Park. The parks department joins with state troopers to provide a fun time for 30 mostly special-needs and at-risk youth, who get to fish in boats and from shore, as well as dine at a barbecue. Ten to 15 pro fishermen bring their rigs to the park, and emergency workers, mostly from Harvey County, have a variety of vehicles for inspection, including an air ambulance, and vehicles from the sheriff?s department and fire/EMS departments.
In addition to events, the parks offer a variety of amenities. East Park has three swimming beaches and West Park has one. Camp Hawk doesn?t offer swimming, but has a fishing pond. At the East and West parks, horse and hiking trails go on for miles. And, of course, there?s water in which to place a boat. Gas-powered boats aren?t allowed at West Park, but they are at East Park.
?It?s a great place to canoe and kayak,? Miller said about the East and West parks. ?This is more of a more open-water-type atmosphere (at East Park).?
People can take part in jet and water skiing, as well as tubing at East Park, and there?s no charge for launching a boat for fishing, kayaking or canoeing. There is a charge, however, for recreational boating.
The parks offer day and season passes for camping, boating and horse trail riding. For the latter, people bring their own horses.
East Park offers baseball backstops and sand volleyball courts. In addition, people can rent shelters at each park for various group gatherings.
Also at East and West parks are xeriscaping projects going in. Xeriscraping is drought-resistant landscaping, Miller said.
?It will all be native, drought-resistant plants,? Miller said. He said Dyck Arboretum and Stone Creek Nursery, both in Hesston, have been of great help with these projects.
Although the parks are open year round, they have to shut off the water when it?s cold. However, there?s one time of year when patronage of the parks kicks up.
?Once we hit Memorial Day, it?s busy, busy until school starts,? Miller said.
Speaking of memorials, the East Park nature trail will have a memorial area where the ashes of deceased indigent folks whose remains have been in the county?s custody can be scattered.
Right now, the county plans to replace a bathroom/shower facility and is developing overnight camping on the horse trails. Eventually, they?ll be able to accommodate horse competitions.
The department has other plans, too.
?We?d like to get our roads out here paved, but that is quite an expensive endeavor, so that?s more of a long-term goal,? Miller said, sitting in the East Park offices. ?We?re really looking forward to the future and really excited about what we?re doing. We want people to take advantage of our parks.?