BELTON — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers held a public meeting Wednesday to discuss potential winter closure plans for some of the parks around Belton and Stillhouse Hollow lakes.
The plan being explored would alter the parks’ seasonal schedules by shutting down underused areas from Oct. 1 to March 1, said Ronnie Bruggman, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manager for Belton and Stillhouse Hollow lakes.
“Since we get 80 percent of our visitors in the summer, we’re looking at realigning our priorities,” Bruggman said. He added the plan being presented is not a full closure of facilities.
“People will still be able to launch their boats,” he said. “We just might close down the lesser-used boat ramps and campsites during the off months to save some money.”
White Flint Park and Winkler Park on Belton Lake are scheduled for winter closure.
“There are many weekends in the winter when Winkler Park’s visitation numbers are at 0 percent,” said Todd Spivey, a Belton Lake park ranger.
Bruggman clarified that overall Winkler Park’s visitation is about 3 percent through the winter.
The proposed reduction that drew the most comment was Sparta Valley Park, which will be limited to day-use only. Some audience members said Sparta Valley has one of the better boat ramps in the area.
“It’s got a steep angle so it’s easy to launch from Sparta Valley,” Tim Wilson said. “I live out by Sparta Valley Park and I fish there all winter long.”
Illegal dumping is spurring the reduction in Sparta Valley’s hours, Bruggman said.
“Sparta Valley has a problem with people dumping household trash, and we’re trying to break that chain,” he said.
Gary Weneberon, a member of the Central Texas Marine Association, asked Bruggman why the corps couldn’t just close the parks but leave the boat ramps open.
“We do have some problems with vandalism and illegal activity,” Bruggman said. “We don’t want the beautiful scenic lakes to be filled with couches and washing machines.”
The proposed winter closures will allow the Corps to fully open the facilities March 1, a month earlier than usual.
“Instead of having six months of summer and six months of winter, we’ll have seven months of summer and five of winter,” Bruggman said. “March is a pretty busy month. It’s starting to warm up and we’ve got spring break.”
The proposed closures are open for public comment through Aug. 30; then a final decision on winter hours will be made.