Thurmond Lake parks, campgrounds feel budget cuts

Some of Thurmond Lake’s popular camping and day-use areas will open later and close earlier this year in part because of shrinking federal budgets unveiled in Washington this week.

“Instead of complete park closures, we focused on adjusting visitor services and operating seasons to lower overall operations and maintenance costs,” said operations division chief Peggy O’Bryan of the Corps of Engineers’ Savannah District.

Although the president’s fiscal 2013 civil works budget includes $66 million for projects, analyses and operations within the district, the maintenance and operations budgets were reduced for Thurmond Lake and nearby lakes Russell and Hartwell.

The proposed 2013 allocation of $27.9 million for the dams and lakes includes $9.5 million for Thurmond Lake, down from this year’s $9.8 million.

Hartwell’s $9.9 million sum is down from $10.5 million; and while Lake Russell’s operations budget increased from $7.3 million to $8.4 million, the increase was more than offset by a drop in environmental monitoring funds, which fell from $3.2 million to $1 million.

Within Thurmond Lake’s total budget is a recreation services budget that has fallen about 25 percent over the past five years – from about $5 million to $3.6 million.

Consequently, corps officials are working to cut costs while keeping the most popular sites open during the seasons of highest demand, said Aaron Wahus, Thurmond Lake’s park operations manager.

Changes coming this year include delayed openings at five campgrounds: Winfield, Big Hart, Rayesville, Modoc and Broad River. Those sites usually open March 1, and this year will open either March 15 or April 1, he said.

This fall, Rayesville and Modoc, which usually close at the end of October, will instead close Sept. 30. Clay Hill, usually open until Sept. 30, will close Sept. 3 after Labor Day weekend.

Also, the following day-use areas closed on Labor Day and will be open May 1 through Labor Day in 2012: Parksville, West Dam, Lake Springs and Amity. Boat ramps at Parksville, Lake Springs and Amity will remain open all year.

Most day-use areas previously stayed open through Sept. 30 and started closing after Labor Day last season and will continue to do so again this year, Wahus said. Small portions of day-use areas with boat ramps will remain open year-round, as they have in the past.

Some Thurmond Lake facilities might close earlier due to budget cuts
Recreation site hours could be hurt by cuts
Corps of Engineers: Savannah District Web site
Thurmond Lake Web site

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