Tight Budgets Prompt Changes in Corps Park Operations

Hello, again, everyone!

Well, the budget for the Corps of Engineers is a little tight this year…  The following was sent to me by the Arkansas Hospitality Association.  These things have a history of coming out of the gate sounding more harsh than the eventual reality, but I thought it was an interesting read, so I thought I’d share it with you…

See letter from Jill Theil below:

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Tight budgets are requiring the Little Rock District of the Army Corps of Engineers to propose changes at several of its parks, including closing some less efficient facilities.

A series of public workshops to discuss these proposals and solicit public input is being scheduled for February at Piedmont, Mo., and at Mountain Home, Heber Springs, Russellville and Ozark, Ark. The workshop times, dates and locations will be announced when they are finalized.

Among tough choices being considered are changing recreation operations at 29 parks, including closing 13 campgrounds, four partial campgrounds, four day use areas, one partial day use area, and 10 boat ramps. Also under consideration is making the recreation season shorter at many additional parks.

Other likely park adjustments include reducing the frequency of trash pick-up, cleaning and mowing, as well as reduced maintenance response time and fewer temporary park rangers, law enforcement agreements and contract park attendants.

The proposed changes will reduce costs by an estimated $1.9 million annually ($921,000 for operation and maintenance expenses and $989,000 for labor).

Little Rock District operates 178 public parks and access areas. Making adjustments to the 8 percent of its park facilities that are less efficient will allow the district to place more emphasis on the remaining 92 percent.

Besides its recreation program, Little Rock District proposes to minimize the number of requests it accepts for new and changes to existing private boat docks, as well as the number of permits for mowing on government land and permits for meandering paths across public lands to the water’s edge. Also, the district will reduce inspections of these types of permitted shoreline activities and possibly cancel boundary maintenance activities.

Regarding other business lines, periodic lock and dam maintenance, dredging, and funding of the hydropower employee training program are also affected. It is anticipated most maintenance at power plants will be performed by agreements utilizing customer funding. All the choices have consequences.

As long as a maintenance backlog exists, so does the possibility of unanticipated breakdowns, which can cause a cascading effect on the district’s operation and maintenance program. However, focusing the district’s limited dollars on priority items helps reduce the risk.

National leaders are struggling to control spending in the wake of recession, while at the same time they had to react to a series of severe floods and disasters in 2011.

Little Rock District was not immune. Spring flood damage to district parks and navigation infrastructure totaled $33.5 million. Operations and maintenance funding has been reduced $17 million, and the maintenance backlog on the district’s top 15 needs is $68 million and growing. These factors are causing the district to limit the levels of service it can offer.

During the past several months, Little Rock District performed a thorough and deliberate review of operation and maintenance programs across all business lines so the district can focus available funds on the highest priority work. The district developed a three-tier ‘triage’ like system to help categorize and prioritize tasks because the district did not receive enough money to complete all “normal” day to day tasks.

The categories are must do, should do, and nice to do. The district will first address “must do” items before beginning “should do” items. The district does not anticipate having enough resources to accomplish any items in the “nice to do” category.

This is consistent with the Corps’ national recreation strategy to have a program that is sustainable and adaptable to fiscal challenges and responsive to user needs. And it will enable Little Rock District to provide the best levels of service within the available budget.

(see attachment for more information)  Rec Park Adjustments 18 Jan 12

Jill Thiel
Membership Services & Special Events
Arkansas Hospitality Association

Your White River Trout Diva
His Place Resort
866-435-6535 (toll free)
Become a Fan on Facebook  http://www.Facebook.com/HisPlaceResort
Get our Tweets on Twitter http://www.Twitter.com/HisPlaceResort
Read the Trout Diva Blogs at http://WhiteRiverTroutDiva.net