Despite signs saying otherwise, Cottonwood Point at Marion Reservoir isn’t closed, but it will be.
A two-phase project at the campground will eventually increase the number of campsites at Marion Reservoir by more than one-third, and those campsites will be the best quality at the reservoir.
Contractors have started clearing trees and other vegetation from the planned path of roads for a new loop of campsites and day-use sites, southeast of the existing campgrounds, Park Ranger Traci Robb said Thursday.
“This is a $7.9 million project,” she said. “There are a lot of people watching it.”
Phase one of the project is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It includes construction of roads and installation of utilities in the new camping loop, replacing collapsed culverts and paving gravel roads in the existing campgrounds, adding four new shower and restroom facilities, shore stabilization, and major renovation of the entrance to Cottonwood Point.
A new gatehouse will be built in the middle of the road at the entrance to allow better traffic control. Robb said the change would make it easier for guests to get information from gate attendants.
Work on the gatehouse should take six to eight weeks, during which time Cottonwood Point will be closed. Robb said she will publicize when Cottonwood Point will be closed as soon as she knows, probably a week or two in advance.
When work on the existing campground is done, Cottonwood Point will be reopened. Construction of the new camping loop will not interfere with camping, and there will be no construction on Saturdays and Sundays.
Phase two of the project will include construction of the individual campsites and preparation of a beach at the new campgrounds. Plans call for 61 new campsites and 23 new day-use sites. There are currently 171 campsites at the reservoir, including 94 at Cottonwood Point.
“If you add the campsites and day use, we’re basically doubling the size of Cottonwood Point,” Robb said.
Despite the dramatic increase planned in number of campsites, Robb isn’t worried about the possibility of having vacant campsites. Every year from the week before Memorial Day to the end of July, the reservoir’s campsites fill up each weekend.
“I don’t think we’ll have any problem filling those sites,” she said.
The campsites will have electrical, water, and sewer hookups for recreational vehicles. They will be the only campsites at the reservoir with sewer hookups, Robb said. The day-use sites will be good for families who want to have a picnic or go boating without staying the night, she added.
An existing natural beach will be cleaned up for swimmers, and a border of buoys will be added.
“It has the best sand,” Robb said.
Because the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will not pay for phase two, Robb hopes much of the work can be done by volunteers. That means phase two will take time to complete, she said.
The reservoir already has picnic tables, pedestal grills, and fire rings for the campsites, but picnic shelters and pads for recreational vehicles will need to be built.
The concept for the project originated in 2000 or 2001 with a modernization proposal in Congress, Robb said. It proposed updating high-use facilities, she said.
“I’ll be honest, I never dreamed it would happen,” she said. “This is a once-in-a-career project.”