Old Federal Campground on Lake Lanier. Blue sky, lake and shoreline are shown.

Hall County Parks and Leisure Services will co-manage Old Federal Campground.

The Corps of Engineers at Lake Lanier is the first in the nation to develop ways to help keep parks and campgrounds around Lake Lanier open. Under Partner Operations Plans with both Hall County and Dawson County, six parks will now have shared management and operational costs.

“Several years ago Congress approved the mechanism to partner with local jurisdictions under (Challenge Cost-Sharing) Cooperative Management Agreements to divert operational costs by partnering with local jurisdictions and to help keep revenues generated by the parks local,” said Tim Rainey, operations project manager of the Lanier Project Management Office. “Our new partnerships with Hall County Parks and Leisure Services and Dawson County Parks and Recreation are the first such agreements in the country.”

The Challenge Cost-Sharing Cooperative Management Agreements allow non-federal public entities the opportunity to take over certain aspects of park and campground management and operation, including each campgrounds’ reservation system, handling grounds maintenance, gate staffing and trash removal.

“In return, the Corps will continue with facility maintenance, park ranger patrols, provide and pay for utilities, such as electricity and water, and enforce regulations and safety issues,” Rainey said.

The key, Rainey said, is that all fees at these campgrounds and parks will now be collected by the specific local jurisdiction partner.

“For years, all fees the Corps collected at the parks have gone into the U.S. Treasury general fund, instead of being included as part of each project’s annual budget,” he said. “Now the jurisdictional partners will be able to collect the fees to use for equipment, supplies, park staffing, and when there’s a surplus, for capital improvements to the parks and campgrounds, keeping the monies collected local.”

The partnerships involve a two-part process: first the jurisdiction enters into a Challenge Cost-Sharing Cooperative Management Agreement, requiring signoff by the Corps’ District Office, in this case, the Commander of the Mobile District. Once the District Commander has executed the agreement, the local Corps of Engineers’ leadership – Lanier Project Management Office – and the local jurisdiction meet to work out terms of Partner Operations Plans.

“Dawson County is very excited to be in this unique partnership with the Corps of Engineers. This co-operative agreement allows Dawson County and the Corps to both have a hand in keeping these beautiful parks operational and maintained,” said Matt Payne, director of Dawson County Parks and Recreation. “Dawson County will also retain all fees brought in for the boat launches and such. All this is made possible by this co-op agreement and comes at very little tax needs from the Dawson County citizens.”

Dawson County and the Corps have agreed to work together for Toto Creek Multipurpose Park, plus Thompson Creek and Nix Bridge Day-Use parks.

Hall County Parks and Leisure Services will co-manage three campgrounds: Bolding Mill, Duckett Mill and Old Federal Campground.

“This agreement is an opportunity for Hall County Parks and Leisure to provide excellent local government services to citizens by helping to maintain parks that are already used and frequented by Hall County residents,” Hall County Parks and Leisure Director Brent Holloway said. “It’s a chance for us to step in and manage the day-to-day operations of these campgrounds and continue to provide services to our residents and visitors.”

A third agreement is in process between the Corps of Engineers and Forsyth County.

All three are expected to be rolled out in advance of the 2024 park and campground opening schedule this spring. The Corps of Engineers will retain ownership of all six facilities.

“As budgets have continued to remain flat it has become more difficult for the Corps to maintain our historic levels of service for all the recreation areas we operate,” Rainey said. “This is a win-win-win for the public, residents and visitors, these local jurisdictions and the Corps of Engineers.”

Photo: courtesy Recreation.gov