Visitors to the Pratt County Veterans Memorial Lake are going to find new protection for their vehicles when they park on piers.

The lake has purchased and installed five new carports on the piers and more are planned for the facility, said Nick Birdsong, lake supervisor.

This is the second set of carports installed at the lake. The previous set did not have strong enough anchors and some were blown into the lake.

The new carports have a much better anchor system and should be more secure, Birdsong said.

More new carports are planned to join the five new ones now in place. In 2014, the plans are to add more carports and eventually have one for every pier. The carports provide a shaded area and make it more fun to camp at the lake.

Carports and their anchors cost $1,100. Funding for the carports and other improvements comes out of the lake improvement line item in the county budget.

Along with the new carports are fire rings on the piers as well. The new additions are part of the ongoing effort to improve the lake camping facilities and increase site usage.

Coming soon to the piers is new picnic tables. The tables are already on hand but have not been put in place yet, Birdsong said.

Another addition at the lake is a handicapped accessible swing to the playground. The playground equipment has undergone several upgrades in the past few years including new equipment and surface material beneath the equipment.

Again, the additions are designed to help improve the camping experience at the lake.

In the past, attempts have been made to establish trees on the piers to provide more shade for campers.

But, getting trees established has been very difficult because vandals have destroyed the trees. While it would be nice to have the trees, it would be hard to do.

Besides the improvements to the facilities to bring in more campers, Birdsong is working on getting the lake listed in the Kansas RV & Camping directory.

While the lake gets good usage, it could be better if more people know the facility is available.

"I think it would be good to get our name out there," Birdsong said.

Many lake visitors are from out of state that discovers it accidentally. They either see the signage on the highway or they hear about it from friends or other travelers who stayed there the previous year.

Birdsong said he gets a lot of positive feedback about the facilities at the lake.

"We get a lot of people from out of state. They say they love it and will come back. We get a lot of repeat visitors," Birdsong said.

This has been a good year for visitors to the lake. In fact, Birdsong said they have had a record attendance due in part because of the oil and gas activity in the area as well as the installation of a pipeline.

"It's been a record camping year for us," Birdsong said.

A handful of people have even been living at the lake. The lack of rental properties in Pratt has created a shortage of housing so some have chosen to live at the lake.

The normal camping fee at the lake is $15 a day but for the long-term people, Birdsong has offered a discount of $350 a month.

Those interested in establishing a long-term stay at the lake should visit with Birdsong at the lake.