Campers Fear Shutdown Will Close Oklahoma Corps Of Engineers Campgrounds

Monday, September 30th 2013, 7:49 pm
By: Craig Day

The longest government shutdown ever was 21 days. Most are much shorter than that, but many campers are still worried a shutdown could close Corps of Engineers campgrounds in Oklahoma just when they hope to enjoy the pleasant autumn weather.

Since the 1980s, Bill and Elaine Chaney have been coming to Fort Gibson Lake for extended stays at least twice each year. Fort Gibson is a long way from Washington, but the ripple effect from a possible government shutdown could impact folks like the Chaneys. 

"I hope it doesn't because I'm just about to turn 74 next week, I don't have time to mess with those people in the White House," said Muskogee resident Bill Chaney.

"I wish they would get their act straight and get it all together at one time."

With a midnight deadline looming for political leaders, regular folks like the Chaneys fear a partial government shutdown could mean Army Corps of Engineers parks could be closed temporarily. 

9/30/2013 Related Story: Some Goverment-Funded Programs Safe Despite Possible Shutdown

"It happens I guess with politics, Craig - it's frustrating though," Bill said. "It is, very frustrating. I'm too old to fight with it."

"That would hurt a lot of people. There are a lot of people who are full-time RVers, like we are and they wouldn't have a place to go," Elaine Chaney said.

The Corps of Engineers says it could happen. Basically if employees are furloughed, like park rangers and gate attendants, it could mean parks operated by the Corps may not have employees needed to remain open. 

"They had talked about something like that once before, and they pulled it off," said Elaine Chaney, camper.

Right now, while lawmakers try to pull off a compromise, the Corps is making preparations for a possible shutdown. Critical needs will remain operating, but employees could face a first furlough day on Tuesday.

The Corps is working to see what carryover funds from the prior fiscal year can be used to prevent that from happening.

For now, Bill Chaney is enjoying time at the lake while the fishing is good, and trying not to think too much about the what ifs in Washington. 

"Oh no, I don't want to miss out on the fun, I'd come out here if I had to sneak in," he said, laughing.

A shutdown would also mean federally-run parks and recreation areas would close, including the Chickasaw National Recreation Area and the Washita Battlefield National historic site in Oklahoma.

If it happens, day visitors will be told to leave immediately and entrances will be closed.

Campers in National Parks will be given two days to leave.

The Corps of Engineers issued the following statement Monday night:

The Tulsa District, Corps of Engineers is preparing for the closure of all Corps-operated campgrounds and day-use parks beginning Tuesday, Oct. 1, if the potential shutdown of the federal government goes into effect.  Affected recreation areas would not reopen until after the shutdown is lifted.

Beginning Oct. 1, and continuing through the end of the shutdown, if it goes into effect, no new visitors will be allowed into, or reservations accepted for, Corps recreation facilities. Campers who are on site prior to the shutdown going into effect will be required to vacate campgrounds not later than 8 p.m. on Oct. 2.

In the event of a shutdown, customers may cancel their reservations for a full refund. Customers required to vacate campsites early will receive a partial refund for any unused portion of their reservations.  As an alternative, customers may elect to leave reservations open for possible use after the shutdown is lifted.

Customers may request a partial refund for any unused portion of their reservation due to the shutdown. To request a refund please contact the reservation customer service at 1-888-448-1474 (TDD 1-877-833-6777).  If the customer chooses to do nothing, the reservation service will automatically cancel reservations after their departure date during the shutdown period.