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Governor Kelly Ceremonially Signs Bill Recognizing Establishment of Lehigh Portland State Park

Jul 17, 2023

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IOLA – Governor Laura Kelly today ceremonially signed House Bill 2039, a bipartisan bill establishing Lehigh Portland State Park. She was joined by community members, legislators, and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks in Allen County to celebrate the designation of the park. 

“Iola should be very proud to be the location for the newest addition to our state park system,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “There’s no doubt Lehigh Portland State Park will boost the local economy and create yet another space for Kansas families and visitors to spend time together in nature.” 

A 2021 Wichita State University study showed that the Kansas State Parks system had a nearly $300 million-dollar impact on the state economy, employing over 6,000 Kansans per year and attracting thousands of tourists to the state. With the addition of Lehigh Portland State Park, those numbers are expected to grow. 

“It’s such a thrill for Iola Industries to be able to make a gift of this magnitude,” said Mary Kay Heard, chairman of Iola Industries. “I’m confident it’s going to boost existing businesses and help lure new ones our way.” 

Iola Industries, a local group of business development organizers, gifted the property, which includes walking and biking trails, a 138-acre lake, and fishing along Elm Creek. Lehigh Portland is one of the most visited spots for birding in southeast Kansas, recording about 180 different species of birds, according to  

“The creation of Lehigh Portland State Park is the result of hundreds of people writing letters of support on a moment’s notice, emailing their legislators, and filling the rooms in our statehouse,” said Lisse Regehr, President and CEO of Thrive Allen County. “We would not be here today without their persistence and passion, the support of the administration, as well as the generosity of Iola Industries gifting their land to the state, and our amazing volunteers who created and maintain our more than 14 miles of trails here at Lehigh – you have laid the foundation for future generations to enjoy this land forever.” 

“Thanks to Thrive Allen County and the generous members at Iola Industries, tremendous value is being added to Kansas’ already world-class state parks system in the form of a beautiful lake and quality trails,” said Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks Secretary Brad Loveless. “While I know this property is going to be an instant hit with our parkgoers, I also know that our park staff’s plans for development will make it even more inviting in the very near future.”   

The addition of this park increases the number of Kansas state parks to 29. 

Below is a photo from today’s bill signing for media use.