UPSTATE, SC (WSPA)– Upstate counties and or cities, are stepping up to take over five U.S. Army Corps Parks that were on the verge of closing down. The U.S. Army Corps said it will still remain the owner of the parks, but it will lease them to certain municipalities.
Enjoying the day at Twelve Mile Creek Recreation Area, is one activity Ben Martin turns to often.
“We actually come out here a lot, not often on a boat, but we come out here just to hang out,” Martin said.
This tradition was going to be halted, after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it was either close the area, or limit the park.
“Well there’s a budget limitation, made it so they had to look at closing several parks in the area, they could no longer operate and maintain them with the funding levels that they have. So they asked the City if we would be interested in taking over the maintenance and operation of the Twelve Mile Beach area through a lease,” said Andy Blondeau, the City of Clemson Administrator.
The Army Corps of Engineers said due to a declining budget and cuts, the following parks were on the chopping block until counties and cities agreed to take over the leases.
- Twelve Mile Creek Recreation Area in Clemson
- Friendship Recreation Area in Oconee County
- Payne’s Creek Recreation Area in Hartwell
- River Forks Recreation Area in Anderson County
- Weldon Island Day Use Area in Anderson County
“We wanted to keep those parks open, so the public can have access to them,” said Rusty Burns, Anderson County Administrator.
At the end of last year, Anderson County took over the Shores of Asbury, which will soon become an Upstate waterpark and attraction.
“We will actually be making money on that because we have secured a lease from the Corps of Engineers. We will be sub-leasing to a private company, and we will be charging that private company for the use of that area. So, we will actually, instead of being a burden to the taxpayers, we’ll actually make money,” Burns said.
Burns said by taking over the lease agreements at the two additional parks, more recreational opportunities could be birthed.
“We know we’re going to try to keep them as they were in their glory days and maybe open up some of the parts of those parks that has been closed,” Burns said.
The City of Clemson said at Twelve Mile Creek, it will cost roughly $200,000 to maintain the park per a year, but park operations will be funded with user fees and existing revenue streams.
“What I have in here for the revenues for this, are gate receipts, program incomes from rentals, and contribution from the hospitality fee and hospitality tax, and accommodations tax funds,” Blondeau said. “We’re going to have to charge a user fee to maintain the park, and right now the Corps charged a fee, so we’re going to do the same thing, but we’re going to put some gating on it and develop our pricing plans. It’s going to be very similar to what other parks are going to be. Once we get the operation set up, then it will take those things and other enhancements, over five years or so,” he said.
Once things are finalized, the City of Clemson will house a Spring Break Rowing Program for teens all over the Northeast to train. It will also host fishing events, and create an overnight camping area.
“The goal here is to maintain and preserve the resource that’s already been available to everybody,” Blondeau said.
People like Martin are looking forward to all the enhancements very soon.
“The opportunity to use it more, is fantastic for everyone,” Martin added.
The U.S. Army Corps said all of the above parks are still in the process of being handed over, and those leases are being finalized now.