The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism announced in a news release Wednesday night it was considering temporarily closing Pillsbury Crossing Wildlife Area – located about 7 miles southeast of Manhattan – because of what it says are safety concerns.
The agency noted the high number of visitors, illegal activities and complaints from area residents as reasoning for the potential closure of the 59-acre area.
"This is a scenic area that was intended to be a peaceful spot for families to enjoy, but crowds are getting larger and alcohol-related issues are becoming common occurrences," KDWPT Public Lands Division director Stuart Schrag said in the release. "While our law enforcement staff continue to manage the area to the best of their abilities, Pillsbury Crossing may very well be closed if visitors continue to disregard posted notices and area regulations."
Among the activities the KDWPT said have contributed to concerns about the area are:
• The consumption of alcohol and cereal malt beverages
• Accessing the area between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
• Operating vehicles outside of maintained roads
None of those activities are permitted at the wildlife area, which is open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. During normal stream flow, the area creek makes for a scenic half-mile float by canoe or kayak. Birdwatching, hiking, and fishing are also popular activities that are allowed on the area.
The agency also said that traffic congestion and overflow parking contributed to the area’s concerns.
"We want everyone to enjoy Kansas’ public lands," Schrag said in the release. "But we’ll never place access over safety. We need area visitors to follow the public lands regulations in place and think twice before they engage in activities not permitted on the area. If we can’t get compliance, we’ll be forced to temporarily close off access."
The area was donated to the KDWPT in 1967.