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Lanier parks gearing up for camping season, fun
Lake visitation rose to 7.1 million in 2010
Roberto Guzman of Andersen Construction Co. builds concrete forms around a campsite at Van Pugh South Tuesday afternoon as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers renovates campsites at the park for the upcoming season.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineer's Lake Lanier parks schedule

Old Federal: Open through Nov. 20
Bald Ridge: Open through Nov. 20
Duckett Mill: April 13-Sept. 11
Bolding Mill: April 13-Sept. 11
Sawnee: Open through Sept. 11
Van Pugh South: April 13-Sept. 11

Boat ramps and swimming areas are open at all day-use parks that have those amenities.
These seasonal day-use parks opened Friday and will stay open until Sept. 25: Lower Pool East, Upper Overlook, Buford Dam and Lower Pool West.

The beach at these day-use parks opened Friday and will stay open until Sept. 25: Burton Mill, Little Hall, Keith's Bridge, Long Hollow and Lanier Park.
The picnic area opened Friday and will stay open until Sept. 25 at Robinson Park.

At Toto Creek Park, the campground area will be open April 13-Sept. 11 and the beach will be open April 11-Sept. 12.
At Lanier Park, the boat ramp and the beach opened Friday and will stay open until Sept. 25.

For more information: Call the corps at 770-945-9531


New playgrounds and restrooms and improved camping sites are just a few of the improvements visitors will see at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers parks around Lake Lanier.

The corps has made many off-season changes and upgrades to campgrounds and day-use parks, which have either opened partially or totally or are set to open in the next couple of weeks. Many of the day-use parks are open year-round.

A rainy March may have impeded some of the work.
"Weather is always a factor," said Nick Baggett, natural resource manager at the lake. "... A lot of times you have to wait until it dries out."

The corps has worked at Van Pugh South, Old Federal, Duckett Mill, Bald Ridge, Bolding Mill and Sawnee campgrounds and West Bank Park and Two Mile Creek Park day-use areas, Chief Ranger Chris Arthur said.

Some of the changes have been fairly involved, such as at Van Pugh South, a former day-use park converted to a campground, at the end of Gaines Ferry Road in Hall County.

The corps has added power and water to 36 sites, removed wooden crossties at 18 tent sites and poured concrete borders around the sites, and upgraded sites to meet federal Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

Also new at the West Hall park is a playground and a paved park entrance.

Old Federal Campground, which is at the end of Jim Crow Road, has a new playground.

Plus, the corps is "in the process of refurbishing all tent sites," Arthur said.

At Duckett Mill campground, which is at the end of Duckett Mill Road in West Hall, the corps has also replaced crossties and poured concrete borders around sites.

The corps has added restroom buildings at West Bank Park, which is near Buford Dam in Gwinnett County, and Two Mile Creek Park in Forsyth County, Arthur said.

One of the biggest fixes have been the crossties, "which have been in there for 40 years, probably," Baggett said.

"The concrete, even though it costs more, will last forever, basically," he added. "And that's what we're looking at - saving the public money over the long run."

The corps' yearly improvements are of keen interest to the Lake Lanier Association, a Gainesville-based advocacy group.

"Our members use those parks frequently during the year and there are many recreational users of Lake Lanier that see the lake from those parks exclusively," said Joanna Cloud, the organization's executive director.

The group has an annual lake cleanup, Shore Sweep, but it also gets involved as needed for special projects, she said.

"For example, we have had signs in English and Spanish printed and installed at some the park areas reminding people to pick up their trash," Cloud said.

She plans to meet with park rangers in April and "I'm sure we will discuss opportunities for the (association) to get involved or help out with park projects."

As for visitation, it's always hard to predict numbers, officials said.

Campground visitation rose to 44,376 in 2010 from 43,224 in 2009 and the overall number of lake visitors climbed to 7.1 million in 2010 from nearly 6.9 million in 2009, Arthur said.

With the down economy, the lake can make for a less expensive getaway for families.

Plus, "the water's up, so we're always expecting more people when that happens," Arthur said. "I assume we're going to have a busier season, but you just never know.

"If we keep getting rain, that cuts down on our visitation. But if it's going to be nice, they're coming."