News: Corps to reduce visitor services next year due to declining federal recreation funds
Story by Tracy Robillard
SAVANNAH, Ga. - Due to significant projected budget reductions in fiscal year 2014, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District will reduce park operations and visitor services at lakes Hartwell and J. Strom Thurmond during the 2014 recreation season.
The Corps will close one campground and five day use areas on Hartwell Lake, and four campgrounds on Thurmond Lake. In addition, the Corps will partially close two day-use areas on Hartwell Lake, and two day use areas and two campgrounds on Thurmond Lake, with only the boat ramps remaining open in those areas.
The Corps selected recreation areas for full or partial closures based on an analysis of its recreation program, which included visitation numbers, costs to operate and maintain parks, and the location of similar facilities. These recreation areas were selected to minimize impacts to the public and surrounding communities while achieving the necessary cost reductions.
"We considered alternatives to maintaining park operations and acceptable visitor services within funding limitations, such as complete park closures, partial closures, seasonal reductions, and reduced visitor services," said Peggy O'Bryan, chief of operations for the Corps' Savannah District.
"During 2012 and 2013, we avoided complete closures of recreation areas at Hartwell and Thurmond by reducing service levels and shortening operating seasons to lower overall operations and maintenance costs," O'Bryan said. "Reduction in service levels includes reducing frequency in cleaning, mowing, water safety outreach, trash collection and some maintenance. Unfortunately, continued funding constraints and uncertainties have resulted in further actions for the 2014 season."
Displaced visitors are encouraged to use other Corps-operated parks that remain open or areas operated by state and local governments or commercial concessionaires. The Corps will continue to operate eight campgrounds, 10 day use areas, and 28 boat ramp/access areas on Hartwell Lake; and seven campgrounds, seven day use areas, and 15 boat ramp/access areas on Thurmond Lake.
Corps officials are currently communicating with local county governments to investigate potential park lease options that could keep recreation areas open to the public.
"The Corps, along with our state and local partners, will continue to provide public recreation opportunities," O'Bryan said. "However, fiscal constraints create challenges to recreation program services at Corps projects.”
The complete and partial closures are listed below. Except as noted, all affected recreation areas closed at the end of the 2013 recreation season and will not reopen in 2014.
Complete Closures for Fiscal Year 2014
J. Strom Thurmond Lake:
- Raysville Campground
- Broad River Campground
- Clay Hill Campground
- Hesters Ferry Campground
- Stephens County Day Use Area (Closure effective Jan. 1)
- Mullins Ford Day Use Area
- Milltown Campground
- Fair Play Day Use Area (Closure effective Jan. 1)
- Long Point Day Use Area
- Lawrence Bridge Access (Closure effective Jan. 1)
Partial Closures for Fiscal year 2014
J. Strom Thurmond Lake:
- Springs Day Use Area (Close 3 of 6 loops)
- Mt. Carmel Campground (Campground closed. Boat ramp open)
- Gill Point Day Use Area (Day use area closed. Boat ramp open)
- Leroys Ferry Campground (Campground closure effective Nov 1. Boat ramp will remain open)
- Poplar Springs Day Use Area (Day use area closed. Boat ramp open)
- Weldon Island Day Use Area (Weldon Island loop closed. Hattons Ford will remain open)
For the most current information on Hartwell Lake park seasons, visit the website at http://www.sas.usace.army.mil/lakes/hartwell or call the Hartwell Dam and Lake Office toll free at 888-893-0678.
For the most current information on Thurmond Lake park seasons, visit the website at http://www.sas.usace.army.mil/lakes/thurmond or call the Thurmond Lake Office toll free at 800-533-3478.
This work, Corps to reduce visitor services next year due to declining federal recreation funds, by Tracy Robillard, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.