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Drury Park given new life, will re-open Saturday

Drury Dam

by Amber Countryman, Sumner Newscow —  Drury Park has been given new life, thanks to the new owner, Rick Conner. In 2018, Conner purchased the park and other lands in Drury, Kan.

Since that time, he has been working on updating the park. The outhouse has a new cement slab under it, new vent, and new door. The old metal rules sign and cofferdam once used to work on the dam, will be repurposed for a visitor center. Conner has also done a lot of dirt work in the park.

“The water standing in the park was almost like quicksand before we started the work,” Conner said.

A soft opening is planned this Saturday, May 23. Admission to fish will be free, but you must possess a Kansas state fishing license, and a waiver must be signed. Per the governor’s orders, due to COVID-19, campsites will not be open just yet.

The grand opening of the park will be Saturday, June 6, which coincides with Free Fishing Days in Kansas. People can fish for free, without a fishing license, as long as they have a child with them, that weekend only. Those wishing to fish in Drury Park that weekend will still need to sign a waiver. Campsites will open the that same weekend.

“I want to make the park more family-oriented,” Conner said. “I cleaned up a lot of overgrowths to make more space available for camping.”

Conner even plans on installing a playground in the park.

“I collected stuff to make a primitive playground with pipes and cement blocks for kids to climb on,” Conner said. “There will also be a tire swing over there. On what I call the high side of the park, there will be a swing set.”

Once a destination resort, Drury Park housed a three-story, 46-room modern style hotel until a flood washed it, and the iron wagon bridge away, in 1923. There was also a dance pavilion, bathhouse, boathouse, cabins, a pet bear tied to a tree, and movies shown on a raft above the dam in the river. Since then, many people have utilized the area for camping and fishing.

“My biggest concern is protecting the integrity of the dam,” Conner said. “Repairs need to be made in the near future.”

Making the needed repairs is going to be costly. Conner plans on fundraising in the near future to begin raising money to repair the dam.

“I hope to see it where people don’t just come here to party,” Conner said. “I want to see it become a family destination.”

A grand opening celebration is in the works for on Saturday, June 6, with free hotdogs to be served.

By 2021, Conner plans to have primitive camping cabins in place, which will include sinks, 110 air conditioning, wooden bed for air mattresses or sleeping bags and enough space to store coolers and personal items.

“If the park floods, we can just pull them into the road,” Conner said.

A new shower house will be placed in the park, which will include running water showers and flushing toilets, all of which is handicapped accessible. Campers will have access to these amenities.

Entrance to the park will be by day pass, annual membership or camping permit. A day pass is $5 per person. Single membership is $20 a year, family memberships are $40 a year, and primitive camping permits are $3 per night. Conner will have a trailer in the park serving as an office to collect permit and camping fees. New rules will be posted on the office trailer, which are all about respect.

Currently, Conner is looking for people to serving on the Drury Community Committee. During fundraisers, he plans on splitting the profits three ways between fundraising expenses, dam repairs and park upkeep, and for the Drury community’s upkeep.

“If someone that lives here needs an old building torn down but can’t afford it, or they need work done in their yard, that’s what the community fund would be used for,” Conner said.

For information or those interested in joining the Drury Community Committee, contact Rick Conner at drurydam@gmail.com.

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