Fed. Cuts Affect Corps Campgrounds
Federal budget cuts will affect camping and other recreational activities at Mark Twain Lake near Hannibal, Mo., and three southern Illinois lakes this summer, the Army Corps of Engineers announced on Feb. 12.
The corps’ St. Louis District office said government-run recreational facilities will cut back services this summer at Mark Twain Lake and Shelbyville, Carlyle and Rend lakes in southern Illinois, due to “flat to declining budgets,” according to the Quincy (Ill.) Herald Whig.
Campgrounds will be open on a normal schedule at Lake Shelbyville and Mark Twain Lake, but other services to visitors will be reduced. There will be less frequent mowing, cleaning, road maintenance and garbage pickup at the sites, and visitor centers at all four lakes will operate only on weekends.
“The differences will be in the eye of the consumer,” said Sandra Spence, assistant operations manager at Mark Twain Lake since 2004. “We try to offer four-star service – we mow the grounds perfectly, we offer very clean restrooms. We have really tried to meet the need of the customer in every way we feasibly can.
“Well, now some of those services are going to have to be limited. For example, if it’s a wet spring, we won’t be able to mow as often as we would. Now, if it’s dry, that service reduction may not be felt as heavily.”
Spence said the funding appropriation for Mark Twain Lake in 2008 is $5.26 million, down $608,000 from the 2007 funding level. The fiscal year at the lake begins in October.
“We have worked with flat to slightly declining budget numbers for several years,” St. Louis Operations Chief Peggy O’Bryan of the Corps of Engineers said in a written statement. “We identified economies and deferred maintenance to continue to support the recreation program.”
At the same time, she said, “some items like utilities and fuels have doubled and tripled through this period.”
Spence said positions that are now open at the lake are not being filled, and the number of summer employees is being cut by 75%.
“Any backlog maintenance work is going to be put on hold unless it affects life, limb and property,” she said.
“What we want the customer to walk away with is that we don’t want to change the economic stimulus of the area. We still want the tourism to stay. We don’t want people to walk away with the opinion that northeast Missouri has poor facilities.”
The heaviest effects will be felt at Rend Lake, near Mount Vernon, where some campgrounds will remain closed all season. Carlyle Lake campgrounds will open on schedule, but some will close early in the season.