While receiving guidance and instructions from the Nashville District Corps of Engineers, Looney and his staff had the uncomfortable task to close the Corps’ campgrounds to visitors after having given them a short evacuation notice. Campers’ fees were not refunded when they left their campsites, but Looney said, “As soon as everything is up and running, all campers will receive a refund by filing an application at the same place they made their original reservation. We have received some advice that indicates that campers will receive it automatically, but that was last week’s news. That could have changed by now.”
On Friday morning, while Looney and his staff were discussing how to maintain closure of the day use facilities and the Corps boat ramps, they were notified (from Nashville) that the day use facilities should be reopened and the boat ramps would remain accessible.
“So, we’ll just keep coming to work and do our jobs, until somebody tells us differently,” Looney said..
In the meantime, state parks and other commercial camping areas in western Kentucky welcomed campers who had been evicted from the numerous campgrounds in Land Between the Lakes, among them the popular Hillman Ferry. Some campers were having a last meal at local restaurants on their way home, as they did not feel that they could pay for additional rental at another campground when they could not get a refund from the U.S. government for campgrounds that were being closed.
Irene Bryan, owner of LiteSide Garden Cafe and Bakery of Grand Rivers, less than one mile from the northern entrance of LBL, has watched her breakfast and lunch business dwindle to near emptiness.
“I’ve lost hundreds of dollars in revenue on a daily basis since the closure of LBL,” she said. “Without the support of our local friends and community, we would have had no one. Some of the ones who got kicked out of Land Between the Lakes were mad and in no mood to eat out. They just wanted to go home. They weren’t interested in staying around and looking for anyplace else.”
Sandy Davis, office manager at Kentucky’s Western Waterland, said many disappointed visitors were stopping by the office located at Interstate 24, Exit 31 to find alternate campgrounds, as many of them did not realize Land Between the Lakes is federal property.
“It’s been a real education for everyone,” she said, “as we explore what is a federal campground, a Corps of Engineers campground, and a commercial campground. The trouble was that by the time they got here and found out that they were out of luck, many of the commercial campgrounds were already full of those who had been told to leave both the LBL and the Corps campgrounds.
“For those who are not too mad to listen, we’ve been able to explain to them that the Trace through LBL is still open,” she said. “The hiking trails are available, along with many of the biking trails and the roads leading to the shoreline. It’s the LBL facilities that are closed, and we have no idea when they will reopen. We also have to caution them not to cross any barriers or try and proceed past any ‘Closed’ signs. Other than that, the park is still open, and law enforcement officers are excepted employees who remain on duty, along with the forest service employees who care for the animals.”
Grand Rivers tourism officials remain optimistic that this week’s annual Harvest Moon activities will attract the visitors back to their small village, and Trigg County and Cadiz tourism officials remain upbeat that the public will turn out for the annual Ham Festival events which are being celebrated all week in the Trigg County venue.
All area state parks are open; however, those who wish to camp should call ahead for availability.