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Camping on 60 years of tradition

Peaceful county lake keeps family, friends coming back

Staff writer

Wichita resident Bonnie Oliphant started a family tradition that has grown to include an expanding number of relatives and friends who camp at Marion County Park and Lake every Memorial Day weekend.

Oliphant, matriarch of the family, started taking her grandchildren camping at her beloved lake more than 60 years ago.

“It’s a beautiful lake,” Oliphant said. “It’s quiet and peaceful. It was probably the first one we came to when we came to Wichita.”

As her family has grown, so has the size of the group that accompanies her for her annual camping trip.

The family is now joined by friends as well, some lured by an annual cornhole tournament organized by Oliphant’s great-granddaughter, Tiffany Witthaus.

The group, camped along the east side of the lake on Memorial Day weekend, filled an entire camping section. Sixteen people and four dogs enjoyed the cool of the day Saturday.

Family members say they find plenty of entertainment there.

“We rode our bikes around the lake yesterday,” Park City resident Mike Turner said. “We cook outside, but sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate.”

It didn’t cooperate the night before. The lake was about five feet higher than average, and reaching many fishing docks meant wading up ramps. Campfire wood got soaked by rain.

“I’ve never seen the lake this high,” Oliphant’s granddaughter Dawn Nance said.

Members of the group enjoy swimming when the water is warm enough.

“It’s a pretty lake, and people are friendly here,” Nance’s husband, Layton Nance, said.

Kathy Delgado said she liked that the lake office rented canoes.

“A lot of places don’t,” she said. “They’ve got stuff here that we don’t find at a lot of lakes.”

Dawn Nance agreed.

“It’s like a nice little secret; now it’s going to get out,” she said. “It’s quiet; it’s good fishing; it’s nice.”

She and her husband camp at the lake about five times per year.

This time around, Erica Maxwell set up camp eight days earlier, to stake out a spot.

“They always take care of the property out here,” Maxwell said.

She also appreciates spending time with family and friends.

Family friends Rick and Jess Godwin, McPherson, joined the group along with their three boxers, Beau, Bryant, and Rebel.

It was the dogs’ first camping trip, Jess Godwin said.

“It’s just a weekend holiday,” she said. “It’s really peaceful. At a lot of lakes, there’s a lot going on — jet skiing and crowding.”

The location, only 30 miles from McPherson, is a bonus, she said.

“Of all the lakes we’ve been to, this is the most enjoyable,” Paula Tanner said. “You remember it and come back. It just floods back the fun you had.”

Last modified May 30, 2019

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