"We do not have a 2012 budget yet but we have the president's proposal, and we have what the House in Congress has passed," said E. Patrick Robbins, Mobile District's Chief of Public Affairs. "The Senate has not passed anything yet, and then, of course, you've got this deficit reduction panel coming up. So we don't know what we're going to get in 2012.
"But looking at the figures that we have seen, we just do not have the funds left available to operate our camping recreation facilities like we have in the past. So we're preparing for that by going ahead and announcing these reductions in seasons ... everything that faces Allatoona is a reduction in season or a reduction in operations."
During the 2012 recreational season, Lake Allatoona is among seven Corps-operated properties in the Mobile District, which covers Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi, that will see some of its parks' schedules "compressed." At Lake Allatoona, Clark Creek North, Clark Creek South, Old Highway 41 No. 3 and Upper Stamp Creek campgrounds will be affected.
"Typically what will happen is let's use Clark Creek North Campground [as an example] -- it's simply a reduction in seasons," Robbins said. "It normally operates from April to September each year. So this year it will not start operating till 18th May.
"Then others, let's say they normally operated from February to November, they will close from October to March. So they close early and open later. So that's basically what's happening to all of them. They're either going to close earlier or open later. Then we have a couple that will open later and they'll operate less days per week. Instead of operating seven days a week, they'll only be four days a week."
Operations also will be shortened at Payne Campground, and Cooper's Furnace and Riverside day-use areas. In addition, there will be closures during the winter season at Galts Ferry Day Use Area and McKaskey, Sweetwater and Victoria campgrounds, with these areas only operating four days a week in peak recreational months.
"Payne Campground normally is operated from March to September every year," Robbins said. "It will not open until 18th May. Cooper's Furnace is normally operated year-round. It will close December, January and February. Riverside Day Use Area, same thing, normally operated year-round [and it now] will close December through February. [What is considered the winter season] depends at each location. At Sweetwater [Campground], it's normally operated from March to September. It will now close March and April, so it won't open until the first of May. So they're just late openings.
"So what that does is help us cut down on our operations and maintenance costs because we don't have to have people in there cleaning the trash, cleaning out the restrooms if there are any, making repairs, that kind of stuff. With the decreased budget, these are changes that we had to make and they have been made all across the district, not at just one particular location."
Along with Lake Allatoona's facilities being impacted, "temporary closures have been scheduled for ... Lake Sidney Lanier ... [and] partial closures will occur at Carters Lake, Okatibbee Lake and West Point Lake," according to a news release from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "Specifically, Carters Lake's primitive campgrounds at Harris Branch, Ridgeway and Woodring Campground will not be operated during the 2012 recreation season. West Point Lake will not operate the primitive campground at Ringer Park during 2012. Other recreational uses within these parks will be accommodated."
To view the operating seasons of specific facilities, visit the Mobile District's website at www.sam.usace.army.mil and search under the "Find a Recreation Area" link.
"If something was to change positively, where we would go back to normal operations, we would put out another press release announcing that," Robbins said. "But I do not anticipate that happening, not based on what we see in the budget. In fact, my guess would be you may see more of these in the future.
"We want people to understand that those facilities that are open will provide the same quality recreation facilities that we've always provided, but unfortunately, we just have to make these changes because of budget. That's the only reason we're doing this."