WALLA WALLA, Wash. – After thorough review, the Walla Walla District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to shorten operating seasons at some of its recreation areas and close or transfer others beginning in fiscal year 2012 that starts Oct. 1, 2011. Changes are necessary because the District is expecting about a nine percent or $669,000 decrease in its recreation budget in the coming fiscal year.
Most of the changes will begin to be seen in 2012 and will be in effect until further notice. Three District operating projects do not require any adjustments because their programs are fully funded to fiscal year 2011 levels: Mill Creek and Bennington Lake (Walla Walla, Wash.), Lower Granite Lock and Dam (Pomeroy, Wash.), and Lucky Peak Dam and Lake (Boise, Idaho). The changes also do not affect recreation facilities operated by lessees.
“Our primary recreation mandate is to maintain access to water-based recreation areas, and we’ll continue to do that to the best of our abilities. Unfortunately, we’re at the point where we have to reduce services, shorten seasons and mothball facilities to stay within our budget,” said District Commander Lt. Col. David Caldwell, “The Walla Walla District remains dedicated to providing quality and safe recreation opportunities for our visitors within our funding authorizations. We’re well aware of recreational and economic impacts of any changes to this program, and our decisions aren’t made lightly.”
While initial reductions and closures have been identified, the District is inviting local volunteers and organizations to assist with maintenance and other chores to keep Corps-operated recreation facilities open or operating. Individuals or organizations interested in helping keep recreation sites open or operating may contact District Natural Resources Management at (509) 527-7139 or VolunteerCOEWalla@usace.army.mil.
“We’ve been able to sustain some parts of our recreation program due to volunteers in the past. I thank all who have partnered with us in the past, and look forward to those we’ll have the opportunity to work with in the future,” Caldwell said. “We have all sorts of volunteer opportunities that will be rewarding to those who choose to help us keep certain services in place.”
The Corps looked for cost savings while considering availability of reasonable alternatives. For example, in deciding whether to close or shorten the season at a Corps campground, officials looked to see if another campground was within a reasonable distance.
Planned District recreation program changes and reductions are as follows:
· Day-use areas: Reduced services will include closure of restroom facilities at some day-use areas. The number of trash containers and frequency of trash pickups will be reduced. The public is asked to help “pack-it-in, pack-it-out” by carrying out their trash. Grounds contracts for mowing, irrigation, weed control, and pest control will be reduced.
· Campgrounds: Grounds maintenance contracts will be reduced at camping areas where volunteers can be effectively utilized.
· Hood, Charbonneau, and Fishhook Parks (Tri-Cities area). Reduce park operations by six weeks; open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend only. This year, these day use areas and campgrounds will close September 30, but boat ramps will remain open.
· Levey and Windust Parks (Tri-Cities area). Reduce to a boat launch access point with no other facilities or services. Some areas will be accessible for hiking. Picnic tables may be removed, some roads barricaded, and there will be no trash removal—visitors are asked to “pack it in, pack it out.” The Corps is asking for volunteers to provide watering and mowing assistance or other visitor services.
· Matthews Landing, Ayer Boat Basin, Devil’s Bench, and Riparia Park (Lower Snake River sites). River access points only; no other services provided; restrooms will be closed. Volunteers are needed to reopen and maintain restroom facilities.
· Lyon’s Ferry Park (Lower Snake River). Reduce to limited day-use area only with no boat launch or camping. While the Corps continues to seek partnering options for this unique recreation opportunity in a historically and culturally rich area of the lower Snake River, it also seeks to keep parts of the park open with the help of volunteers.
· Central Ferry Park (Lower Snake River). Keep closed; options are being considered.
· Madame Dorian Park (at junction of US12 & State Route 730). The park is being transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in accordance with the Water Resources Development Act of 2007. The transfer agreement has been signed.
· Dent Acres Campground and boat ramp, Dworshak Reservoir (Orofino, Idaho). Dent boat ramp is planned to remain open. Dent Acres seasonal gate attendant services and individual campground site reservations ended as previously planned in early September. The main campground with individual sites is currently open for first-come-first-serve unreserved camping through the end of November 2011. The gate attendant contract will not be renewed in 2012. Grounds maintenance contracts will be eliminated. The reservation service has been eliminated and the Corps is seeking alternate operators and/or volunteers to keep the park open on first-come first-serve basis. Volunteers are especially needed to keep Dent Acres Campground open and also operate several smaller campsites and access points. The group campground is now closed for the season.
· Dworshak Mini-camps (Orofino, Idaho). On Dworshak Reservoir, there are currently 82 mini-camps for boaters. Nine little-used sites have been closed to date, and 25 additional sites have been identified as possible closures. Site closure
· decisions are based on past visitation, facility condition, difficulty of access at all water levels, and availability of alternative modes of access to the site. The Corps will continue to seek user input on additional closures. Closure of some mini-camps eliminates relatively expensive site cleaning and maintenance, fire protection services, and transportation of sewage to treatment facilities.
The Corps is the nation’s largest provider of water-based recreation. The Walla Walla District boundaries generally follow the Snake River drainage, and the District includes approximately 107,000 square miles in six states—Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, and small parts of Nevada and Utah. More information is available at the District website at www.nww.usace.army.mil.