Since Labor Day 2009, several improvements have been made at Marion County Park and Lake.
Among the improvements are a wheelchair accessible fishing pier, a community fire ring, a portable fire ring, “Lincoln Log” guardrails and benches, and renovations to the lake hall.
A new fishing pier improves access to fishing for people with mobility problems, Park and Lake Superintendent Steve Hudson said. The pier is getting steady use, and he expects it to increase over time.
The community fire ring was designed with groups like Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts in mind, as well as company and organization retreats, Hudson said.
Using plans from an original Civilian Conservation Corps manual created by the National Forest Service in the 1930s, Marion County Park and Lake Hudson and Jeff Jirak of Jirak Construction created the community fire ring on Pier Point, across from the swim beach.
Built on a concrete slab, the fire ring is made of limestone, lined with fire bricks, and capped with chiseled stone. It is surrounded by “Lincoln Log” guardrails for seating.
Hudson is interested in having classes at the fire ring. Topics could include bird watching and stargazing.
Portable fire rings are available for campsites that do not have a permanent fire ring, to reduce the temptation for campers to assemble an ad hoc fire ring, Hudson said.
Hudson developed two new campsites more than a year ago on the south side and recently built new fireplaces at the sites. Lincoln log benches, picnic tables, and newly planted trees enhance the areas. In addition, rock has been placed along the shore line to prevent erosion.
The “Lincoln Log” guard rails and benches were made from decommissioned power line poles. The rails are positioned to prevent vehicles driving on the grass near the lake hall. If the benches become popular, lake workers will be able to make more.
Insulation was added to the lake hall and drywall and ceiling tiles were replaced. Tile backsplashes were installed in the kitchens.
In addition to the improvements, lake workers have been busy preparing for the summer camping season. They set up the beach area, filled fish feeders, moved buoys, cleaned up trash, and repaired picnic tables. Workers also planted donated trees and flowers.
Summer events have already begun at the lake. A Ducks Unlimited catfish tournament and silent auction was Saturday.
On June 4 and 5 the county will offer free tent camping and reduced-price RV camping permits to county residents as part of a Local Appreciation Weekend. The weekend coincides with Kansas free fishing weekend.
Bluegrass at the Lake will be 2 to 10:30 p.m. June 19 at the beach area. Bluegrass bands Jammin’ Biscuits, Folk Holler, Timber Creek Band, and Stranger Creek String Band will play, and there will be an open stage from 2 to 4 p.m. with a $100 prize for the best performance.
Mothers of Preschoolers of Marion will have a Run for Your Momma half marathon and fun run Aug. 14 at the lake.
Events will continue into autumn with a fourth annual chili cookoff 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Oct. 2 and the Midwest Polka Club Dance 2 to 5 p.m. Oct. 16.
Park ranger Tracey Robb said roadwork has been completed in the Hillsboro and Marion Coves, just in time for summer camping.
Marion Reservoir has 171 campsites in four parks: Cottonwood Point, Hillsboro Cove, Marion Cove, and French Creek Cove.
All campsites contain picnic tables, grills or fire rings, sun shelters, and gravel parking pads.
Class A parks — Cottonwood Point and Hillsboro Cove — are equipped with electrical hookups, showers, RV dump stations, group camping areas, group picnic areas, playgrounds, and beaches.
Cottonwood Point also has a 50-amp electrical service, individual water hookups, and a one-mile Willow Walk Nature Trail.
Maps and information on special facilities, fees, and park regulations are available from gate attendants. Visitors may also contact the reservoir office at (620)382-2101.