News 12 at 11 o'clock/ Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013
LAKE THURMOND (WRDW) -- Campgrounds at the lake are the latest casualty of federal budget cuts. The Army Corps of Engineers announced Wednesday they will be making cuts at eight campgrounds around the lake, closing some down for good.
Sue Lathopoulos loves to camp at Thurmond campgrounds. She comes for weeks at a time multiple times a year.
"It's so great to be able to get away from the city and here there's a lot of peace and quiet," she explained.
Jerry Lantz agrees. He and his wife spend a few weeks on the campground every year, coming down from their home in West Virginia.
"It's one of the nicest places we've ever been," he said.
But next year both Sue and Jerry will have less campgrounds to choose from because of a reduced operating budget for the Corps.
"We're gonna be closing four parks and partially closing areas of four others," explained Scott Hyatt, Operations Project Manager for the Corps of Engineers at Thurmond.
The parks closing are Raysville and Clay Hill in McDuffie County and Broad River and Hesters Ferry in Lincoln County. Partial closures will hit Lake Springs in Columbia County and Mt Carmel, Gill Point and Leroy's Ferry in Lincoln.
"Lincoln county probably gets hit the hardest," said Hyatt.
Hyatt says budget cuts and the end of a cooperative agreement that was allowing non profits to manage the parks left them in this situation.
"I expected this to happen the way the recreation program has been going over the past years," explained Hyatt. "I expected this to be staged over a 3 to 5 year period, but because of what happened with the cooperative management it compounded everything and made it happen all at once."
These cuts could mean a loss for the economy.
"It's about another 40,000 visitors that we're impacting them somehow," said Hyatt.
The number of visitors at the parks has gone from 1.1 million to under 900,000 in the past 6 years. The operating season has also been cut down by two months.
This is just the initial plan. The Corps is looking for local groups who might be willing to take over or manage the parks. They are also talking with the counties about potentially handing over the reigns.
The following boat ramps will be impacted as well, becoming No Service areas:
Mt. Pleasant (McCormick)
Keg Creek (Columbia)
Double Branches (Lincoln)
Chamberlain Ferry (Lincoln)
Calhoun Falls (Abbeville)
Below Dam GA (Columbia)
Murry Creek (Lincoln)