WALLA WALLA -- Budget cuts are forcing the Army Corps of Engineers to shorten operating seasons at some recreation areas -- including three in the Tri-City area -- and close or transfer others in the Walla Walla District.
They also are prompting the Corps to call on volunteers to help operate the parks to keep them open.
The changes are necessary because the district is expecting a 9 percent, or $669,000, decrease in its recreation budget in the coming fiscal year, according to a Corps news release issued Friday.
Most of the changes will begin in 2012 and in effect until further notice.
"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," said District Commander Lt. Col. David Caldwell in a news release.
"The Walla Walla District remains dedicated to providing quality and safe recreation opportunities for our visitors within our funding authorizations. We're well aware of recreational and economic impacts of any changes to this program, and our decisions aren't made lightly," he said.
The Corps looked for cost savings while considering availability of reasonable alternatives, the release said. For example, in deciding whether to close or shorten the season at a campground, officials looked to see if another campground was within a reasonable distance.
The Corps also is turning to volunteers to help keep the programs open.
"We have all sorts of volunteer opportunities that will be rewarding to those who choose to help us keep certain services in place," Caldwell said in the release.
Reduced services include closure of restroom facilities at some day-use areas. The number of trash containers and frequency of trash pickups also will be reduced.
The public is asked to help "pack-it-in, pack-it-out" by carrying out their trash at day-use areas. Contracts for mowing, irrigation, weed control and pest control will be reduced.
Grounds maintenance contracts also will be reduced at camping areas where volunteers can be effectively used.
Other planned program changes and reductions include:
Hood, Charbonneau and Fishhook parks (Tri-City area)
Reduce park operations by six weeks -- Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend only. This year, day-use areas and campgrounds will close Friday, but boat ramps will remain open.
Levey and Windust parks (Tri-City area)
Reduce to a boat launch access point with no other facilities or services. Some areas will be accessible for hiking. Picnic tables may be removed, some roads barricaded, and there will be no trash removal. Visitors are asked to "pack it in, pack it out." The Corps also is asking for volunteers to provide watering and mowing assistance or other visitor services.
Matthews Landing, Ayer Boat Basin, Devil's Bench and Riparia Park (Lower Snake River sites)
River access points only. No other services provided. Restrooms will be closed. Volunteers are needed to reopen and maintain restroom facilities.
Lyon's Ferry Park (Lower Snake River)
Reduce to limited day-use area only with no boat launch or camping. The Corps seeks to keep parts of the park open with the help of volunteers.
Central Ferry Park (Lower Snake River)
Keep closed; options are being considered.
Madame Dorian Park (at junction of highways 12 and 730)
The park is being transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Dent Acres Campground and boat ramp, Dworshak Reservoir (Orofino, Idaho)
Dent boat ramp is to remain open. Dent Acres seasonal gate attendant services and individual campground site reservations ended in early September. The main campground with individual sites is open for first-come-first-serve unreserved camping through the end of November.
The gate attendant contract will not be renewed next year. Grounds maintenance contracts will be eliminated. The reservation service has been eliminated and the Corps is seeking alternate operators and/or volunteers to keep the park open on first-come first-serve basis.
Volunteers are needed to keep campgrounds and access points open. The group campground is now closed for the season.
Dworshak Mini-camps (Orofino, Idaho)
On Dworshak Reservoir, there are 82 mini-camps for boaters. Nine little-used sites have been closed, and 25 additional sites have been identified as possible closures.
Three of the Walla Walla District's operating projects do not require any adjustments because their programs are fully funded to fiscal 2011 levels: Mill Creek and Bennington Lake (Walla Walla), Lower Granite Lock and Dam (Pomeroy), and Lucky Peak Dam and Lake (Boise). The changes also do not affect recreation facilities operated by lessees.
The Walla Walla District boundaries generally follow the Snake River drainage, and include about 107,000 square miles in six states, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and parts of Nevada and Utah.