CAMPING — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will rely largely on volunteers and dramatically reduce services to keep many of its recreation sites open, including Dent Acres Campground on Dworshak Reservoir.
The agency’s Walla Walla District is facing a 9 percent cut in its recreation budget and will close some of its sites, convert others to day use only and eliminate services like trash collection and bathroom cleaning, according to a report by Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune.
The money-saving measures won’t affect any of the agency’s sites along the Snake River in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley. But other sites on the lower Snake River and on Dworshak Reservoir will feel the pinch.
Read on for more of Barker's story.
”Our primary recreation mandate is to maintain access to water-based recreation areas, and we’ll continue to do that to the best of our abilities. Unfortunately, we’re at the point where we have to reduce services, shorten seasons and mothball facilities to stay within our budget,” District Commander Lt. Col. David Caldwell said.
Paul Pence, manager of Dworshak Reservoir, said people will no longer be able to make reservations at Dent Acres and a contract for grounds maintenance has been eliminated. The agency is seeking six volunteer couples to run the park and if it can’t find them will pull volunteers from other areas that already run mostly on volunteer power. That could mean camping at places like Canyon Creek and restrooms at Merry’s Bay and Bruce’s Eddy would close. Boat ramps would remain open, even if other services are ended.
Nine of the 82 mini camps around the reservoir have already been removed, and Pence said restroom cleaning services at another 25 of the mostly boat-access-only camps will be provided only during the busiest part of the summer.
Funding for a contract with the Clearwater County Sheriff’s Office will likely be reduced and could lead to fewer marine patrols on the reservoir.
Pence said the agency considered closing, Dent but he convinced his supervisors to attempt to operate the park with volunteers and allow him the flexibility to pull services from other areas around the 55-mile-long lake. The recreation budget at Dworshak will take a $168,000 hit in fiscal year 2012 that starts in October and follows years of declining funds.
”We have been on a downward spiral for probably the last four years. Fiscal Year 2012 is the biggest one and we don’t expect any increase for 2013.”
The entire district that spans an area from the Tri-Cities in Washington to Lucky Peak Reservoir near Boise is facing a $669,000 reduction in recreation funding. Pence said the agency has been trimming the fat at the reservoir for several years. A student ranger program was eliminated and two full-time ranger positions were reduced to part time. Other open positions have remained unfilled.
Bruce Henrickson, a spokesman at the Walla Walla office, said finding volunteers will be critical to the continuance of some services.
”If we find more volunteers that is great; if we don’t find as many volunteers as we need we are going to have to make some tough decisions about what might be closed.”
The agency has decided to close restrooms at some of its sites along the lower Snake River west of the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley. Matthews Landing, Ayer Boat Basin, Devil’s Bench and Riparia Park, all downstream of Lower Granite Dam, will operate only as boat ramps. Lyons Ferry, which has been shuttered since last year, remains closed. Corps officials are seeking a private contractor to operate the park. Central Ferry, also on the Snake River, will remain closed.
Pence said he welcomes questions about volunteer opportunities at Dent Acres. He can be reached at (208) 476-1258.