Corps May Ask States to Run Campgrounds
Some campgrounds on Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota may not be mowed as often, or the bathrooms cleaned daily, but they will be open this year.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will trim back maintenance because of budget cuts, but it will operate the Missouri River downstream, East Totten Trail, Douglas Bay and Wolf Creek campgrounds in time for Memorial Day weekend, the Bismarck Tribune reported.
However, budget cuts for federal recreation sites are likely to go even deeper in coming years. Rather than possibly close the campgrounds as has happened in other states, the corps will ask if the state Parks and Recreation Department will take them over, said Todd Lindquist, lake manager.
Lindquist said he wants to get out ahead of the looming situation.
“We want to avoid in two years there’s no federal money and the state doesn’t have any money and there they sit, closed,” Lindquist said. The same situation applies to campgrounds on the Lake Oahe reservoir.
He said his staff will put together operation costs and revenue and present the numbers to the state.
“We’re really just starting these discussions with the state to gauge their interest,” Lindquist said.
Parks director Mark Zimmerman said the potential for the state taking over the federal campgrounds is an interesting development, though it would take an extra injection of funds into his budget to make it happen.
He said revenue from state parks pays for their operations, but staff salaries come from the state’s general fund.
Zimmerman said he needs detailed numbers before he can talk to the governor’s office about funding starting with the 2015-17 biennium.
He said limiting or closing access to campgrounds on the lake would impact recreation, especially now with the growing population in the oil patch and even more pressure on facilities.
Recreation use is up at state parks in the region and Zimmerman expects that will only increase.
“The numbers are strong and more people want to be outdoors,” he said. “We would have to see how it would all shake out.”
Lindquist said his agency just received funding for the 2013 fiscal year and is relieved that it doesn’t have to furlough any employees, which would have immediately affected its ability to operate the campgrounds.
Additional cuts are coming for 2014 and 2015.
He said the corps is trying to adjust how it services the campground, but still maintain an acceptable standard.
“I don’t think people will notice any changes this year,” he said.