Stephens Co. Day Use Area To Close Jan. 1

More cuts by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will affect one of the Corps’ recreation areas in Stephens County.

This week, the Corps of Engineers announced that it was reducing park operations and visitor services at a number of areas on both Lakes Hartwell and Thurmond for Fiscal Year 2014.

Among the announced cuts was the closure of the Stephens County Day Use Area just off U.S. Highway 123 near the Georgia-South Carolina state line effective on January 1.

Corps of Engineers Spokesman Billy Birdwell said all of these cuts are coming because of budget shortfalls.

“We just do not have the budget we need to keep all of the sites open, so we make the decision (to close) based on usage and whether or not other similar facilities are within a reasonable distance away,” said Birdwell.

In recent years, the Corps has avoided complete closures of recreation areas by reducing service levels in areas like cleaning and mowing and shortening operating seasons.

However, Birdwell said those cuts alone are not enough anymore, which led to the decision to close some of its recreation areas.

He said that the Corps will not rule out finding other ways to re-open these sites.

“We have been approaching some local agencies that may have the desire or the means to take these over on a long-term lease basis,” said Birdwell.

In all, the Corps will close one campground and five day use areas on LakeHartwell and four campgrounds on Lake Thurmond.

Also, two day-use areas on LakeHartwell, along with two day-use areas and two campgrounds on LakeThurmond are partially closing, with only the boat ramps remaining in those areas.

Birdwell pointed out that the Corps will continue to operate eight campgrounds, 10 day use areas, and 28 boat ramps or access areas on Hartwell.