Breaks Interstate Park is geared up and ready for a new season.
Splash! in the Park opened the Friday before Memorial Day, said Superintendent Matthew O’Quinn, noting that a new slide was installed in the off-season, making that phase of the project complete.
The $2.3 million facility opened on June 15 last year, and had a greater impact than park officials had imagined.
“Even with our late opening and a rainy July, we still saw 23,000 visitors at the water park in 2013. This shows, without a doubt, that our vision for this project was well placed. We are excited to be able to provide another wonderful outdoor recreation venue for kids in this region, thanks to our funding partners in Pike, Buchanan and Dickenson counties, the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, and the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Revitalization Commission,” O’Quinn said.
He added that this year, Splash! in the Park will offer a Family/Group Fun Pass Punchcard, allowing visitors to get a discounted admission fee for multiple visits. Since it will be done in the form of a punch card, it can be shared among family members or friends, O’Quinn noted.
“We had a lot of requests for these, and I am hopeful that this punchcard will allow increased access for our neighbors,” he said. Two types of punchcards will be available: a 10-admission card for $65; and a 20-admission card for $100. These cards may be used on any day, and offer substantial savings off the regular admission prices, he noted.
Guests will also notice the addition of fiber-optic internet service in the park. The project began last year, but thanks to a $56,000 grant from VCEDA, Phase II of the fiber backbone was completed during the spring. Wireless internet service will be available in the lodge area, at the waterpark and cabin and cottage areas, said O’Quinn.
Part of that grant also went toward lodge room renovations, he added. Refrigerators were added in all of the 82 lodge rooms, and new mattresses were placed in 46 rooms in the Redbud, Dogwood, Hemlock and Goldenrod lodges.
O’Quinn said another beneficial change was the addition of online reservations for lodging and camping through Reserve America.
In the past, O’Quinn said visitors hesitated to travel to Breaks because they couldn’t be sure they would find a site.
“Now we are seeing campers traveling much further to spend time here at the park, and we saw a notable increase in camping.” Also, being able to offer online reservations 24-hours a day provides a convenience that has come to be expected in this digital age, he noted.
O’Quinn said one of the developments he is most proud of is the organization of the Friends of Breaks Park.
“Because our park only receives 15 percent funding from state government, as opposed to the 50 to 100 percent funding most state parks receive, it is very difficult to budget for capital improvements, or even added guest services and interpretative opportunities.”
A friends group, he noted, will serve as a non-profit arm to assist with projects throughout the park, and will also oversee a volunteer program as well as providing support in other much needed areas at Breaks.
“All of the new initiatives that we’ve undertaken in the last few years have been an attempt to optimize the visitor experience.”
One thing O’Quinn places emphasis on is the broadening of interpretive programming during the spring and summer.
“Unfortunately, I think my generation was the last who grew up playing outside as the norm. Now, it’s a challenge just to pry kids away from a screen,” said O’Quinn. “I believe it’s important to focus on activities that celebrate nature and the outdoors to foster their value, especially with young children,” O’Quinn said.
Beginning in late May, weekly interpretive programming schedules will be available online, at the Park Visitor Center, and can be found on bulletin boards throughout the park. Many larger events are also planned at the park throughout the year, including National Trails Day, Father’s Day Gospel Sing, Settler’s Weekend and more. Information about the park and events can be found online at www.BreaksPark.com.
Breaks Interstate Park is located on the Kentucky - Virginia border and is accessed by State Route 80. Commissioned by the U.S. Congress in 1954, it encompasses more than 4,600 acres and is one of only two interstate parks in the United States. For more information about the park, visit www.BreaksPark.com.