With the weather heating up, so is the activity at Jackson County Parks+Rec.
Spring softball is already underway. The 250 camp sites around Longview, Blue Springs and Jacomo lakes opened for rental on April 1st and boat-rental season starts April 15.
“Our parks and lakes are great places to spend any day of the year,” said County Executive Mike Sanders, “but especially now that spring is here.”
Each campground offers full-hookup (i.e., electric, water and sewer service) sites for Recreational Vehicles, as well as basic sites for tent camping. Some offer electric service only. Other amenities include showers and restrooms, picnic tables and fire grills. The cost ranges from $17 to $28 a day.
“Our campgrounds will attract visitors from all across the nation,” said Parks + Rec Director Michele Newman. “For the people in our metropolitan region, Jackson County camping is a great way to enjoy the beautiful outdoors—with some modern amenities readily available and without having to venture too far from home.”
While the campgrounds are closed during the winter, the county’s extensive network of trails are open year-round for hiking and bicycling. Fishing is another activity with no off-season in Jackson County. Fishermen are welcome to try and reel in the big one any day of the year at Longview, Blue Springs and Jacomo lakes.
But when the weather warms up, so does the angling.
On a warm morning in March, Longview Lake Marina administrator Dave Bass (yes, that’s his real name) kept answering a phone that rang regularly with fishermen inquiring about the conditions.
“It’s still a little early for bass and walleye, but the crappie are biting,” Bass told a caller. “Come on out.”
Duane Kline of Peculiar, Mo., was sitting on a five-gallon bucket on the dock, his pole pointing down into an empty boat slip, and he confirmed Bass’ appraisal, saying he had caught and released two dozen crappie that morning. Kline fishes once or twice a week throughout the year, sometimes bringing his boat to Longview or Blue Springs Lake.
“They do a good job here,” Kline said. “They keep the marinas up. They’re friendly.”
Bass noted that Longview Lake Marina has a new fueling system, with two new gas pumps, installed last summer. He’s getting ready for the high season, hiring more than a dozen temporary workers at the marina. They work in the marina store, rent out boats, keep the parking lot clean – even dress in buccaneer garb and stage make-believe boardings for pirate parties on the water.
“Jackson County simply has some of the finest public marinas in Missouri,” County Executive Sanders said. “They offer all the services anyone getting on the water could possibly want.”
The county offers pontoon boats for rent at Lake Jacomo, Longview and Blue Springs lakes. Longview and Blue Springs lakes allow private boats with unlimited horsepower, including speedboats. Jacomo Lake has a 25 HP limit, so slower-moving paddle boats, kayaks, canoes and fishing boats are also offered for rent at its marina.
Each marina stocks a full line of fishing gear—rods, reels and lures of all types, plus live bait. They sell one-day fishing licenses for $7. Annual licenses for Missourians cost $12. For out-of-state residents, it’s $42 a year. The marinas also carry food, drinks, sunscreen—virtually everything a person would need to enjoy a day on the water or the shore.
County park rangers patrol the parking lots and the water. The Missouri Highway Patrol’s water patrol division patrols the water, too, on busy weekends.
And the lakes do get busy when the weather warms up. Jim Dickerson, a park ranger in the Kansas City district office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said that in 2014 counters showed more than 1.1 million vehicles visited Longview and Blue Springs Lake parks. Those lakes were built by the Army Corps. Jacomo was built by Jackson County itself, opening in 1959. Longview Lake opened in 1986, and Blue Springs Lake followed a couple of years after that.
From 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, May 2, Lake Jacomo will host the 34th annual Kids Fishing Derby. Free events on the beach just off Colbern Road include casting clinics, fishing demonstrations and contests with prizes.
The busiest day of the year at Longview is July 4, when the annual Big Bang fireworks display draws thousands of people to the water and the shore.“We’re going to shoot off the largest firework shell in the nation,” said County Executive Sanders. “This year’s display will be bigger and better than last year. It’s just going to be amazing.”
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