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Corps’ Joint Management Agreements Illegal

September 17, 2013 by · Comments Off on Corps’ Joint Management Agreements Illegal 

The fees collected at campgrounds and other public use areas on the Table Rock Lake shoreline will go straight to the U.S. Treasury instead of to local nonprofits, ozarksfirst.com reported.

For the last three years, a nonprofit group called the Ozarks Rivers Heritage Foundation (ORHF) has been giving tours of Table Rock Dam and managing many properties for the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)

But in a recent press release, the corps announced that it would no longer enter into such partnerships, which it calls “cooperative joint management agreements.”

Greg Oller, the Table Rock Lake manager for the corps, explained that an internal legal review of the agreements revealed that USACE did not have the authority to let a nonprofit collect fees on its behalf.

“They said we basically had to eliminate those types of agreements,” Oller said, “with those cooperating associations.”

Many of the workers at Dewey Short Visitors Center, Indian Point, Moonshine Beach and other public use areas are funded through the fees collected by ORHF. The group then reinvests the fees into projects like facilities improvements, expansions, workshops and worker salaries.

Sheila Thomas, the director of the foundation, explained that the practice saves the corps money because ORHF can develop programs and reinvest money flowing into the park.

“By being here,” she explained. “We’re able to, not just offer the services, but expand the services that are offered to the public.”

Thomas said the foundation will have to lay off four workers go this week, and possible more if OHRF does not negotiate a new, traditional lease with the corps. She said many of the services Dewey Short offers, such as workshops for school groups, might be discontinued because there is no way to fund them.

Without collecting fees, the foundation cannot proceed with many of its planned expansions, such as improved showering facilities and maintenance to campgrounds.

Thomas stressed that it was too early to tell whether OHRF could continue to operate at all, but that she hoped that a traditional lease would let her and her staff continue to develop new programs for the lake.

“We try to make it a great place for people to come and visit,” she said. “No matter who’s providing the service.”

Oller said that the corps would take over many of the services the foundation previously offered, but that budget cuts on a federal level would severely impact what services would continue.

He explained that the fees collected to the corps would go to a general fund, and not to the park.

“We’re still in the discussion phases with our district offices and just trying to figure out how much money we’ll have available to operate these recreation areas,” he said.

 

Latest Briefs from RV Parks/Campgrounds

April 18, 2013 by · Comments Off on Latest Briefs from RV Parks/Campgrounds 

Shane Ott

MONTANA

From the Billings Standard:

Two weeks ago in China, a country with almost no commercial campgrounds and limited cross-country highways, Shane Ott of Billings opened a third Airstream RV dealership, according to the Billings (Mont.) Standard.

The Beijing dealer, Xing Liu, sold two RVs on opening weekend.

“I think, maybe in some cases, these ultra-wealthy people are parking the RV on their property just to make their equally wealthy neighbors jealous,” Ott said.

In recent years, China has been on a tear to build modern infrastructure from subways to railroads to highways, according to the newspaper.

“They may not have many miles of highways, but the ones they have are brand new,” he said.

Click here to read the entire story.

NEW YORK

From the Glens Falls Post Star:

The Adirondack Samaritan Counseling Center in Hudson Falls will honor the Lake George RV Park on Route 149 in Lake George for its ethical practices during an awards banquet on April 27.

The RV park, owned by Dave King, will be honored in the large business division.

The winners were selected for their commitment to core ethical values such as integrity, fairness, honesty, community involvement and public service.

The awards are the result of a yearlong process. The counseling center, which provides mental health services across the region, seeks to recognize ethical local businesses because there is a connection between a positive, supportive workplace and mental health.

Nominations are sought in the spring and summer, and a SUNY Adirondack business ethics class conducts interviews and ranks the nominees in the fall.

NORTH DAKOTA

From The Forum, Fargo-Moorhead:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, will delay opening its camping facilities at Lake Ashtabula near Valley City, N.D., until May 10, weather permitting.

The decision is due to the snowpack lingering into late April and no significant melting forecast for the next 10 days.

Campgrounds impacted include East Ashtabula Crossing, West Ashtabula Crossing, Eggert’s Landing and Mel Rieman Recreation Area.

MISSOURI

From KSDK-TV, St. Louis:

Missouri has been named “Best Trails State” in the nation by a nonprofit organization working to enhance and protect the country’s hiking, biking and riding trails.

The group, American Trails, made the announcement Wednesday (April 17) at the International Trails Symposium in Arizona. The “Best Trails State” award is handed out every two years to the state that does the most to improve and promote its trails system.

According to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the state park system features almost a thousand miles of managed trails and more than 500 miles of National Recreation Trails designated by the U.S. Department of Interior.

More than 18 million people visited Missouri state parks in 2012, marking the fourth straight year of increased attendance, reversing a 10-year decline.

Gov. Jay Nixon’s office said a 2012 economic study for the Missouri park system reported total annual expenditure of state park visitors in 2011 was approximately $778 million.

 

Flood-Damaged Old Highway 86 Site Opens

April 5, 2013 by · Comments Off on Flood-Damaged Old Highway 86 Site Opens 

One of the campsites at Old Highway 86 Campground near Branson, Mo.

The newly reconstructed Old Highway 86 Campground near Branson, Mo., is open for the 2013 season.

After being closed last year due to flood damage, each of the 69 sites now have water and 50-amp electrical outlets, Lake Manager Greg Oller told Branson’s Tri-Lakes News.

The cost to repair the campground was about $1.25 million, Oller said. The money used came from appropriated funds and flood supplemental money.

“We started the project around the middle of May 2012, and most of the work was completed around Oct. 1,” Oller said.

In the span of those five months, Oller said, local contractors were working on site rehabilitation.

“The people that live in this area like to see that the local craftsmen from this area are put to work on projects the (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) do,” Oller said.

With flat terrain and less rock, Old Highway 86 didn’t offer too many challenges when being repaired, Oller said.

“There has been a tremendous amount of money spent at (Old Highway 86 campground) and a lot of effort on the corps’ part to make sure in getting 86 to the condition that the public wants,” Oller said.

Since the 1960s, Old Highway 86 Campground has been one of the more popular places to camp in the Tri-Lakes Area, Oller said.

With the season, Oller said campers may look forward to brand new roads and shower houses, in addition to water and electric at each site.

Oller said approximately $140,000 in fees will be collected by the beginning of October from Old Highway 86 Campground.

Campsites cost $21 per night and may be booked at www.recreation.gov.

“Camping is still affordable for families, and we want to always make sure we keep our prices down, but it’s a great family experience,” Oller said. “In these challenging economic times, I think that we have done a good job of keeping our campgrounds up to what the public expects. There’s real value to the American public to come out and utilize our campgrounds.”

The corps partners with the Ozarks Rivers Heritage Foundation to maintain campgrounds, including Moonshine Beach which is a day-use area. The campgrounds include: Aunts Creek, Baxter, Campbell Point, Cape Fair, Indian Point, Mill Creek and Old Highway 86.

 

Illegal Niagara River Project Galls Army Corps

April 3, 2013 by · Comments Off on Illegal Niagara River Project Galls Army Corps 

This map from the Niagara News Reporter shows the location of controversial work in the Niagara River between the U.S. (top of map) and Canada (on other side of the river).

Editor’s Note: The following news analysis/opinion piece appeared in the Niagara Falls (N.Y.) Reporter.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District has opened an official investigation into possible violations of federal law by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP) resulting from the implementation of its “Landscape Improvements” plan in Niagara Falls State Park.

An enforcement officer at the Army Corps last week confirmed that by blocking the section of the Niagara River between Goat Island and the innermost of the Three Sisters Islands, filling in the waterway with earthen fill to construct an access road for heavy construction vehicles without having applied for or obtained the necessary federal permits, State Parks may have violated statutes regulating the stewardship of U.S. waters.

Shortly after this story broke in the Feb. 19 issue of the Reporter, state parks ramped up activity at the site in what appeared to be an attempt to complete construction before the Army Corps issues a stop work order to halt further damage to the formerly pristine area.

The crude, temporary road laid was constructed to afford state parks bulldozers access to Three Sisters Islands, where they have obliterated the natural landscape by clearing trees, as well as boulders that have been scoured into exquisite shapes by ancient river currents, to make way for sidewalks, stairways and viewing platforms.

Requests for comment from New York State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey and Western District Director Mark Thomas have gone unanswered.

In an email dated March 24, 2013, Army Corps enforcement officer Joseph E. Kassler informed the Reporter that “… a permit from the Corps of Engineers would be necessary for the work being done, and an application for such a permit should have been made; our records do not show that an application was submitted for this project. There is a simple permit available for construction access work, and we would like to inspect the project… I will provide you with the details of our investigation.”

Kassler also stated that thus far, state parks has been less than cooperative: “I’ve attempted to speak with contacts at the NYSOPRHP regarding the work being done in the Niagara River off Three Sisters Island; I’ve had no returns on my calls as yet…”

The penalty for violating the Clean Water Act, as is apparently being perpetrated by state parks in its bulldozing over a section of the Niagara River, ranges from a maximum fine of $37,500 per day the violation is taking place, up to prison time if the act is considered particularly malicious, deliberate or repeated.

A “Memorandum of Agreement” between the Army Corps and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which may be called upon for additional enforcement actions in cases as egregious as this, states that “No after-the-fact permit application shall be accepted until resolution has been reached through an appropriate enforcement response… e.g., until all administrative, legal and/or corrective action has been completed, or a decision has been made that no enforcement action has been taken.”

What that should mean is that state parks can’t just say, “Oops, sorry for the oversight.”

The Niagara Falls Reporter will be watching to see what kind of enforcement action the Army Corps takes against state parks, especially considering that the local Buffalo office did not respond to our official complaint for an entire month, and then only after the complaint was resubmitted with a copy forwarded to their Washington, D.C., superiors.

A branch of the Niagara River, the connection between two Great Lakes and ultimately the source of water for millions of people, which also serves as the centerpiece of a world-famous natural and historic attraction, was deliberately and furtively dammed off to facilitate construction activities which will exclusively benefit State Parks and their corporate overseers, without benefit of permits required by law.

The public record is replete with instances where the “Feds” came down like a ton of bricks on private individuals who may have inadvertently spilled fill into a creek or impacted a wetland, in order to build a house or improve the bottom line of a small farm.

Will they treat a powerful state agency like New York State Parks on an equal footing with average citizens?

We’ll find out.

 

$$$ Woes Close Corps Campgrounds Early

September 5, 2012 by · Comments Off on $$$ Woes Close Corps Campgrounds Early 

Despite picture perfect weather, there were more than a few unhappy campers at Hood, Charbonneau and Fishhook parks’ campgrounds in Washington state over the Labor Day weekend.

A decision by the Army Corps of Engineers to do an early seasonal closure at many of its recreation facilities in the Walla Walla District has surprised and angered some campers, the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, Wash., reported.

Federal budget constraints forced the closure, which took effect at noon Tuesday at Fishhook’s 41 RV-tent sites, Charbonneau’s 37 sites and Hood’s 46 sites.

“The spectrum of reaction has been from surprise to outright anger,” said Jim Rohl on Tuesday morning while watching the last four campsites at Hood Park empty out.

Rohl and his wife, Gloria, spent the summer as contract employees for the Corps, monitoring campground use, collecting fees and serving as campground hosts at Hood Park near Burbank.

“We’ve had plenty of comment cards,” he said, adding that a few of the comments were not suitable for publication.

“Overall, we’ve had to shorten selected Walla Walla District recreation areas’ seasons this year by up to 12 weeks due to budget limitations,” said Bruce Henrickson, the Corps’ spokesman in Walla Walla.

The boat ramps and day-use areas remain open at the Hood and Charbonneau parks, but the campgrounds at those facilities and all facilities at Fishhook, Levey and Windust parks are closed and will remain closed until next spring.

Henrickson said the Corps decided last year on the cutbacks. Prior to 2011, all facilities and campgrounds opened May 1, but this year that was pushed back to May 18 at Hood and Charbonneau parks and May 20 for Fishhook Park.

All facilities at Levey and Windust parks, except the boat ramps, were closed all last year and this year, Henrickson said.

Jake Blaylock of Spokane was one of the last campers to leave Hood Park on Tuesday.

“We have such a short season anyway, closing it early is unfortunate,” said Blaylock, who spent the night camping with his young son, who played in the shallows of the Snake River.

Blaylock said a lot of people look forward to camping in the post Labor Day season when campgrounds are less crowded and temperatures more agreeable.

“This is prime time for people who don’t have kids and want to get out and see nature,” said Blaylock.

“This is my first time to the park here. It’s a great spot,” he added.

Henrickson said the Corps uses site visitation numbers to develop budgets for each campground.

“The numbers also help us make difficult decisions about shortening seasons or closing recreation areas,” he said, adding that decisions are not made lightly.

Rohl said his summer at Hood Park saw high use of the campground, boating and picnicking areas.

“Generally, it is 98 percent occupancy Friday through Sunday all year, and about 40 percent during the rest of the weekdays in the summer,” he said.

Campers pay a premium $24 a night for sites along the river on weekends, and $11 per night at other sites. The weekday rates are slightly less at $12 and $11.

“My wife and I love this place. We’ve been to many parks in the past 14 years (as campground hosts),” Rohl said.

Terry Supplee of Kennewick was packing up his gear and RV on Tuesday after spending a night at Hood Park with his two sons and a grandson.

“I was surprised when I heard this was the last day, but the guy from British Columbia who was camped next to me was real unhappy about it. He was ticked,” Supplee said.

Henrickson said Charbonneau also is very popular for its marina and boat launch facilities.

That is one reason why the Corps is keeping the boating areas accessible, Henrickson said.

“Our primary mission is access to water,” he said.

Henrickson said more information about the Corps’ specific recreation areas and closures is available at www.nww.usace.army.mil/Missions/Recreation.aspx.

 

Vineyards Open Park to Disaster Evacuees

September 4, 2012 by · Comments Off on Vineyards Open Park to Disaster Evacuees 

The Vineyards Campground & Cabins in southeast Texas will provide up to a two-week free stay to anyone who has been displaced or evacuated due to natural disasters, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or earthquakes, according to a news release.

“The event must be documented and is voluntary on our part,” said Joe Moore, general manager of the The Vineyards, adding that sites will be provided on a space available basis.

Moore said The Vineyards’ new policy is in synch with a new U.S. Army Corps of Engineers policy involving evacuees who have been displaced by natural disasters.

More information is available at www.VineyardsCampground.com.

 

Management Changes at Ga. Campgrounds

August 17, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has signed a cooperative agreement with Outdoor Recreation and Outreach Inc. (OT&R) for the daily operations of five campgrounds at Thurmond Lake in Georgia.

The Georgia non-profit organization, which provides operations and maintenance for public parks and recreational facilities, will take over operation of Modoc, Petersburg, Raysville, Ridge Road, and Winfield campgrounds on Oct. 1, The Augusta Journal reported

Although campers will not experience any significant changes in facilities and services, the new agreement will change the way camping fees are spent.

“Our park visitors will see very little difference in the way our parks are operated,” said Scott Hyatt, the corps project operations manager. “Instead of camping revenues going to the U.S. Treasury, this new agreement will allow fees collected at a campground to be re-invested in that particular campground.”

Fees will be used for maintenance and upkeep, as well as enhancement projects at the campgrounds.

“This is a significant change that will help us keep the campgrounds in great shape and provide a source of funding for future improvements,” Hyatt said.

The corps will continue to provide visitor assistance, perform maintenance, and oversee all operations in these parks.

While other Corps projects in the country use cooperative agreements to operate parks, this is the first of its kind for the Corps’ Savannah District, which oversees three dam and lake projects on the Savannah River: Hartwell, Richard B. Russell and Thurmond.

“Declining federal recreation budgets in recent years require an innovative approach to operating our nation’s parks,” Hyatt said. “By collaborating with partners like OR&O, we can keep parks open and continue to offer quality recreation to millions of visitors every year.”

Thurmond Lake is one of the nation’s largest and most popular public recreation areas with 151,000 acres of land and water. Each year, an estimated 5.5 million people use the many public parks, marinas, and campgrou nds conveniently located around the lake, making Thurmond one of the 10 most-visited Corps lakes in the nation.

 

Oklahoma Fire Victims Sheltered in RVs

August 16, 2012 by · Comments Off on Oklahoma Fire Victims Sheltered in RVs 

With nearly hundreds of eastern Oklahoma families homeless from wildfires, some good samaritans in Green Country west of Tulsa are reaching to make sure everyone has a cool place to sleep.

CrossTimbers Marina and the city of Mannford have organized a trailer gathering. They’re asking folks to temporarily donate RVs to fire victims who lost their homes, KOTV-TV, Tulsa, reported.

The drive began Wednesday (Aug. 15) and Oklahomans are already answering the call.

A little RV may look like a tight fit for a family of five, but it’s just what the Macaruso family needs, at least for now.

“It’s like a 5-star hotel in there,” said Rick Macaruso. “Kids got a place to sleep that’s dry and we don’t have to sweat to death. It’s not home, but it’s as close as we’re gonna get for now.”

With cartoons on TV, being homeless seems to be the furthest thing from Gabriella, Ricky and Mya’s minds.

But when the TV turns off, the reality sets in.

“Losing the house, I gotta say, is the most painful, because I lived out there all my 13 years,” Gabriella said.

The family has been on the move since their mobile home was destroyed in the wildfires.

For days, they’ve stayed in an old RV with shoddy air conditioning and little space. They said it’s not ideal, but know they’re better off than others.

“This is a real here and now need,” said Ron Howell, owner of CrossTimbers Marina. “These are often, staying in tents right now — some are actually sleeping, which is very sad, where their home was out in the outdoors.”

This week CrossTimbers Marina teamed up with the city of Mannford to rustle up RV and trailer donations.

In a matter of hours they had six generous donors and they expect that number to grow.

The Macarusos spent the day setting up their temporary digs.

“It’s so scary,” Gabriella said. “I’m afraid I’m gonna break something or something like that.”

They said they are grateful for the generous spirit of a complete stranger, yet still uncertain about what the future holds.

“It’s kind of weird, not knowing what you’re gonna do next,” Gabriella said. “It’s a scary feeling.”

The groups aren’t asking anyone to give up their RVs, just to donate them temporarily during this transition phase.

“Their property will be protected and taken care of and they will be routinely looked at to make sure they’re not being abused in any way. We don’t expect that to happen,” Howell said.

You can find out how to donate by emailing or calling (91) 288-2332.

In the meantime, the Army Corps of Engineers is offering up several of their campsites to wildfire victims for free.

 

Tornado Damage Keeps Campground Closed Through May

May 23, 2012 by · Comments Off on Tornado Damage Keeps Campground Closed Through May 

The campground at East Lynn Lake near East Lynn, W. Va., will remain closed during Memorial Day weekend while U.S. Army Corps of Engineers crews continue to repair the damage caused by a tornado that hit the area March 2.

The damage was confined to East Fork Campground. Repairs are expected to be completed by June 1, the Charleston Gazette reported.

All reservations for May 11-31 have been canceled; individuals will be refunded for those reservations. All reservations made for June 1 and beyond are still valid.

Area 3 of the campground suffered the most damage and will be the last area to reopen. The damage includes toppled trees at campsites, downed electrical and phone lines, and damage to other facilities.

The staff continues to work with utility companies to repair the damage, restore electrical service and clear away debris.

All day-use areas, shelters and the marina were unaffected by the tornado.

For more information, write to Resource Manager, East Lynn Lake, 683 Overlook Trail Road, East Lynn, WV 25512, or call (304) 849-2355, or stop by the park office, adjacent to East Lynn Dam.

Relief Coming for Flooded Larson’s Landing

July 28, 2011 by · Comments Off on Relief Coming for Flooded Larson’s Landing 

Some relief is on the way for Larson’s Landing, the RV park located the Missouri River in Yankton, S.D., which has been inundated by floodwaters this summer, the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan reported.

The Army Corps of Engineers announced earlier this month it would reduce releases at Gavins Point Dam from 160,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 155,000 cfs Saturday (July 30), followed by a reduction to 150,000 cfs on Aug. 1. Current projections call for releases to remain at 150,000 cfs through Aug. 12.

Doug Larson, owner of Larson’s Landing, said he is looking forward to the lowered releases.

So far, the RV park has lost 17 of 22 mobile homes and 45 of 62 RV pads due to floodwaters.

“If it goes down to a 150,000, it will take a lot of pressure off my sandbags on the west side, which it’s going over right now,” he said.

While the slight decrease in water levels will help, Larson said he won’t be able to do much with the park just yet.

“Once they get it down to maybe 120,000, we can start cleaning some of the area,” he said. “It’ll go down about a foot when it gets to 150,000, but that isn’t enough to get it out of the park yet. When it gets down to 120,000, we should be able to get into part of the park and start cleaning that up.”

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