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Volunteers to bear the load at corps campground
Move could expand, save parks from cutting hours or closing
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Camping season

Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds and their operating days in the 2014 season, which begins Thursday:

Open daily: Bald Ridge, Bolding Mill and Old Federal

Open noon Thursday through 3 p.m. Sundays: Duckett Mill, Sawnee and Van Pugh South4

It’s taken a volunteer effort to restore operating days at Bolding Mill campground in northwest Hall County.

Because of budget constraints, the Army Corps of Engineers had reduced the number of days per week Bolding Mill and three other campgrounds — Van Pugh South, Duckett Mill and Sawnee — had been open to four.

However, by handing over services to volunteers that contractors had handled, Bolding Mill will return to daily operations starting with the 2014 season, which begins Thursday and ends Sept. 7.

“The volunteers are going to do pretty much everything,” Park Ranger Robert Daniel said.

Bolding Mill, which is at 4055 Chestatee Road, will serve as an experiment to see how the volunteer labor works.

“If it works out, we may try to expand it (to the other parks),” Daniel said. “Moving forward, we’re going to try to do all of the cleaning, mowing and fee handling with the volunteers. Rangers will still handle enforcement.”

The idea is “to keep from shutting down the park,” he said. “With the budget constraints, it’s either close three days a week and eventually maybe close altogether.”

Earlier this year, the corps began trying to attract volunteers to perform duties normally held by contractors. In exchange for 20 hours of service a week, volunteers can stay for free at the campgrounds, Natural Resource Manager Nick Baggett has said.

Volunteer campground sites at Bolding Mill have full hookups for large motor homes, including water, sewer and electricity, he said.

“What we ended up having is full-time campers,” Daniel said. “A lot of them are retired folks.”

The corps operates two other campgrounds, Bald Ridge and Old Federal, which are open daily through the season.

The decision to restore Bolding Mill versus the other parks with reduced number of days was based on location.

Bald Ridge and Old Federal are in the southern, eastern and western reaches of the lake, and “we wanted to give people on the north side an option to camp all week,” Daniel said.

Also in the offseason, as part of a $1.9 million in roads improvement, paving took place at Bolding Mill campground and day-use area, Duckett Mill campground and day-use area, Bald Ridge Campground, Old Federal Campground and day-use area, and Little Ridge park.

Lanier got the money as part of the Federal Lands Transportation Program, which provided some $300 million for projects to improve access on federal lands. The program is part of the federal transportation spending law, which is set to expire Sept. 30.