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Government, national parks re-open

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By Calen McKinney

 

Those looking to do some camping before winter hits are still in luck.

Campgrounds at Green River Lake State Park are still open and will be through the end of the year.

The state park wasn't affected by the partial federal government shutdown that ended last Thursday, but campgrounds operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were.

Green River Lake State Park facilities have remained open throughout the shutdown, as the state park is operated with state, and not federal, dollars.

Patricia Hull, operations manager for the Green River area, said the Corps of Engineers owns the land on which Green River Lake State Park is maintained. The corps leases use of the land to the state park.

"They are funded by the state," she said.

But because the state park is on federal land doesn't mean it must operate under federal regulations.

The entire GRL area covers about 32,000 acres. As part of that area, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife staff manages the Wildlife Management Area that surrounds the lake. The corps also owns that land and leases it to fish and wildlife. That area wasn't impacted by the shutdown, since it is paid for with state funds.

After the shutdown ended, corps officials say they believed there was no need to re-open one campground, Holmes Bend, that was closed because of the shutdown, since it was scheduled to close yesterday anyway.

According to a Corps of Engineers news release, campgrounds operated by the Corps of Engineers at Green River, Nolin, Barren and Rough River were closed for the remainder of the season as a result of the partial government shutdown.

In Taylor and surrounding counties, Holmes Bend, Pikes Ridge and Smith Ridge campgrounds are all now closed for the season.

Corps officials say Pikes Ridge and Smith Ridge campgrounds have been closed since Sept. 22, however, so they weren't affected by the shutdown.

Wilson Creek campground and recreational area were also closed because of the shutdown, but have since re-opened.

Also as a result of the shutdown, Holmes Bend restroom facilities were closed, but the boat ramp remained open. Smith Ridge, Site One and Tailwater boat ramps and the Tailwater recreational area were closed.

Pikes Ridge board ramp was already closed for the season, so it wasn't affected by the shutdown.

The visitor center at Green River Lake, operated by the Corps of Engineers, was also closed during the shutdown.

The center was re-opened last Thursday and will operate on its normal winter hours on Monday through Friday.

Holmes Bend, Smith Ridge, Site One and Tailwater boat ramps have opened again, though the restrooms at those ramps are now closed for the season. Pikes Ridge boat ramp is now closed for the season.

The Tailwater recreational area is also open again.

According to the corps of engineer's Facebook page, those who had reservations at Holmes Bend campground can receive a refund for reservations they had during the shutdown. For more information, call (888) 448-1474.

"Green River Lake staff would like to thank everyone for their patience in dealing with this shutdown. We hope that everyone will come back out to visit the lake soon," corps personnel posted online. "Fall is great time for a colorful hike along a trail or for an calm, cool, morning fishing trip."

Hull said she can't say what impact the closure of Holmes Bend campground had on Taylor and surrounding counties.

"You lost two to three weeks of that camping," she said.

Hull said camping season tends to pick up in October, but since camping was available at GRL State Park and other nearby campsites, she believes Holmes Bend being closed likely didn't cause many problems.

She said corps officials agreed that opening Holmes Bend for last Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday wasn't worth the expense.

Campgrounds being closed because of the federal shutdown stirred some anger in campers, Hull said.

"We had some folks that were not happy," she said. "We tried to accommodate as best we could."

Hull said the campgrounds that were closed as part of the federal shutdown were supposed to be closed Oct. 1, though some were kept open until Oct. 6 to give campers time to find reservations elsewhere.

She said most Corps of Engineers operated campgrounds are now closed for the season, except for Tailwater Barren River site, which is for primitive camping.

"That's probably the best place to go," she said.

Hull said Corps of Engineers staff members weren't happy that they had to close some of their campgrounds.

"Nobody liked what happened," she said. "We went with it and did the best we can with it."

Though Corps of Engineers employees weren't happy about the federal shutdown, GRL State Park saw only benefits because of it.

Sharion Abney, manager of the state park, said GRL might lease operation of the park from the corps, but it is its own entity.

"We're state, they're federal," she said.

And though GRL remained open during the shutdown, that doesn't mean it didn't feel any impact.

"It really helped us," she said. "We've had a real good season."

Abney said those who went to campgrounds that were closed were able to come to the state park and camp, which helped the state park's season be more successful.

She said the state park's campground slots were full for the past two weekends.

GRL campgrounds will remain open through Dec. 31, she said. From Nov. 1 through then, reservations are given on a walk-in basis.

The campground will re-open March 1. From March 1 to 16, Abney said, reservations are also walk-in only.

To make a reservation, call Reserve America at (888) 459-7275.

Abney said some residents have seemed confused about the shutdown and its impact on Green River Lake. They should know, she said, that the state park never closed.

According to a state news release, Gov. Steve Beshear has said many Kentuckians would have suffered if the shutdown lasted through the end of October.

Funds for many critical programs would have ended Nov. 1, he stated, and the state has limited recourse to remedy those losses.

About $8 billion in federal funds flow through Kentucky's state government every year, the release states, but more than 85 percent of those funds weren't impacted by the shutdown.

About $900 million used to pay for food, heating assistance, childcare and other programs for Kentucky residents was at risk during the shutdown.

Funding for the programs, according to the release, was in place through Oct. 31, but not afterward.