With several of its Lake Lanier campgrounds closing for the season this week, the Army Corps of Engineers is casting an eye toward offseason improvements.
Van Pugh South campground off Gaines Ferry Road in West Hall will continue to get some work, a carryover from last summer, with the corps putting in electricity and water at some of the sites.
“We’ll also be replacing all the cross ties with concrete,” said Chris Lovelady, the corps’ assistant operations project manager at Buford Dam. “That really cuts down on our continued maintenance load in the future. Plus, it’s a safety improvement.”
In addition to Van Pugh South, Duckett Mill, Bolding Mill and Sawnee campgrounds are ending their 2010 season today.
The beach and campground at Toto Creek Park in Dawson County also closed for the season on Monday. The boat ramp remains open throughout the year.
All the corps-run campgrounds have been open since March or April, with Old Federal and Bald Ridge set to close Nov. 21.
Schedules vary for the day-use parks, although many are open year-round.
The corps got busy last year revamping Van Pugh South and Middle parks, including turning the south park, which had been a day-use area, back into a campground.
Work involved building a gate house near the park entrance, replacing an old one that was used when it was a campground.
The corps has continued working at Van Pugh South through the summer and expects effort to continue through the year, Lovelady said.
Other projects including building a bathroom at Thompson Bridge Park off Thompson Bridge Road in North Hall, as well as replacing two bathrooms at West Bank Park and two shower washhouses at Sawnee campground.
Lovelady said work at West Bank and Sawnee, which are near Buford Dam in Gwinnett County, is especially needed as those parks - and their facilities - are getting old.
Also, the corps plans to close the two-mile section of Buford Dam Road that straddles Lake Lanier from Oct. 4 to Nov. 5 for repaving.
During the closure, east-west travelers crossing Lanier can take Ga. 369 to the north or Ga. 20 to the south.
Corps officials have estimated the closure could add about 15 to 30 minutes to commute times.
“That’s kind of big deal for those who use the road,” Lovelady said. “We are trying to minimize impacts.”
Overall, the corps has experienced a booming summer at all its recreation areas.
“There have been lots of full parks on the weekends,” Lovelady said. “We had such a crowd at Van Pugh North that we were really stretched to patrol it and actually got a lot of help from the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.”
Visitation numbers show a spike for 2010.
From January through July, the corps reports 4,748,982 visitors, up about 8.5 percent from the 4,375,793 visitors January through July 2009.
“August is going to be a big month for us, but it’ll be (later this) week probably before those numbers get in,” said Chief Ranger Chris Arthur. “... I can’t wait to see what August is going to show.”
He believes the economic downturn has contributed to the larger numbers.
Arthur said many visitors have told him they have scaled back or postponed their plans because of expenses.
“And the lake’s full. We’ve had a full pool all summer and it looks great,” Arthur said.