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Congress slow to commit to reservoir improvements

Last year was record-setting season for reservoir

Managing editor

Money, money, money.

It all comes down to money when discussing improvements at Marion Reservoir.

According to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Park Ranger Tracy Robb, when Congress releases funds, improvements will include a new gate shack, 61 new camping sites, new day-use sites, and a picnic area at Cottonwood Point.

She and Park Ranger Neil Whitaker shared their plans with members of Marion Chamber of Commerce Friday.

All recreation funds have been frozen, Robb said. Congress will review the request for funds.

“We may go back to Congress with a scaled-back plan.”

Improvements were to begin this spring and in preparation for that, no reservations will be accepted at the popular tourist attraction. All sites will be first come, first served.

A second dump site at Cottonwood Point, a new toilet at French Creek Cove, and replacement of two pit toilets with new facilities also were requested

Construction of a gate shack and roadwork may displace campers during the construction period. The rangers would rather campers stakeout their sites when they come to the reservoir rather than making a reservation and being disappointed that their “favorite” site may not be available because of construction.

Another change this season will be a slight increase of $2 in fees.

The original plan called for a group shelter house and amphitheater. The shelter house will be an option when government contractors bid on the project. The amphitheater idea was replaced with a larger playground to be located in an area where adults can monitor children on a beach area and on the playground.

Marion City Administrator David Mayfield commented that with the current economy, many projects are being bid and completed well below engineer’s estimates. Robb said it probably wouldn’t make much difference with them because those professionals bidding on the job are government contractors.

It’s clear that the reservoir continues to be a favorite location for seasonal campers.

The Corps had their best season yet, clearing $200,000 last year in fee revenue.

As far as zebra mussels are concerned, next year will be the year the nuisance crustations will die but they will return the following year, Robb said.

Last modified Feb. 25, 2010

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