News 12 at 11 o'clock / Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012
LINCOLNTON, Ga. -- With 161,000 visitors a year, whether you call it Clarks Hill or Lake Thurmond, the lake is one of the area's largest tourist attractions. However, in the past six years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has seen 22 percent in budget reductions for the operations of the lake's parks.
"With our current budget challenges, we've been looking for new ways to fund our current park operations," said Aaron Wahus with the corps.
A Band-Aid solution was to shorten the 2012 recreation season by a month on each end, but now the corps says they have a better idea.
They're partnering with nonprofit organization Outdoor Recreation and Outreach. OR&O will operate five parks at the lake for the Army Corps of Engineers.
"Ultimately, we want to keep the parks open and offer the same services that are being offered now," said Michelle Wilson, executive director for the organization.
OR&O founded itself in Lincolnton for the sole purpose of helping out the lake. The Army Corps of Engineers says its partnership with OR&O allows them to keep whatever money those five parks make rather than send it to the U.S. Treasury.
"The moneys that are collected in these five parks will actually be reinvested into the parks," Wahus said.
"And that allows the parks to really sustain and stay open," Wilson added.
The five parks bring in an estimated $500,000 annually, and the partnership will save the corps $400,000 annually.
The Army Corps of Engineers says they hope to use that money to add amenities to parks.
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