Ark. Campground Shutdown Hurts Business
The closing of campgrounds run by the Army Corps of Engineers in Arkansas is having an adverse effect on nearby businesses which relied on them for customers.
"We go from doing pretty good to trying to figure out how we're going to make it," said Mike Tripp, owner of a diner located less than a mile from the Crystal Springs Campground on Lake Ouachita 60 miles west of Little Rock.
The bad news came back in October. Tripp was told that all but one site on each of three Arkansas lakes would close for eight months of the year. Tripp had no other option but to close up shop, according to THV.com.
"When this park shuts down, it's like flipping off a switch," he said.
The chosen camp site for Lake Ouachita to keep open is Tompkins Bend. It’s about 11 miles west of Crystal Springs. Tompkins Bend had about 53,000 fewer visitors than Crystal Springs last year. The Core of Engineers though says Tompkins Bend Campground will stay open because it is cheaper to operate.
Tripp said, "Tompkins Bend is cheaper to operate because no one wants to go there."
"If we can get our budgetary needs met, what we want to do is open the campgrounds back to the point of where they were last year," said James Ross with the Vicksburg Corps of Engineers District.
But Tripp is already losing money and says next year is too late. He'll have to make a decision in the next 60 days if he should sell.
"I have spent every dime that I’ve got. I have a home equity loan. I have a credit car that is maxed out. I have just about hit the wall," he explained.
Rep. Mike Ross, a Democrat from the 4th Congressional District, is behind the push to get the campsites back up and running. He's introduced a piece of legislation that would require a minimum of 80% of fees collected by the Corps of Engineers Recreation to be reinvested into the facilities. It will be at least a month before it's considered.
Crystal Springs Campground has gotten a little bit of a break. It is the only site in the state that the Corps has allowed to be closed for six months instead of eight. It will reopen in March.