Braxton Citizens' News, Opinion

Day use fees…

You will read on the front page of this issue that the US Army Corps of Engineers will be implementing a charging system to utilize the recreational areas of Sutton Lake. Yes, they have charged to use the launch ramps for some time, but this will be a first for local residents and tourists to have to pay $5 per car to park on the paved areas of Bee Run or behind the Dam. That means $5 if you want to go swimming; $5 if you want to take your child to the playground; $5 if you want to go walking or hiking on public property… the list goes on.

The only thing that the $5 fee does not apply to is the customers at the Marina, that is assuming you can find a space on their already overcrowded gravel parking lot. The lot is too small to accommodate the boat owners and their guests as it is. The Corps has previously refused to allow the marina operator to enlarge the parking area.

Now we have a new Marina owner taking over this year and this can’t be good for business. I have seen hundreds of people come to the Marina, buy a hotdog and soda or ice cream cone and walk along the shoreline and enjoy mother nature. Now we will have to pay $5 for that privilege. How devastating will this be to the local economy?

To make matter worse, they only take plastic. You can’t pay in cash. A lot of lower-income citizens patronized our lake by taking their children swimming or fishing along the bank. Many don’t have credit cards.  Regardless, if they want to continue that privilege, it will cost… you guessed it… $5.

The same will apply when I invite someone to come to my boat for an afternoon. If it’s the weekend, they will not be able to park in the gravel lot, particularly now. How much will it cost my children and grandchildren to be able to spend time with us this summer like they have in the past?

It is as if the Corps prefers to have less use of the recreational facilities. Oh, wait, on more then one occasion, I have had people in the upper echelon of the Corps tell me that flood control was their prime directive and everything else fell to a distant second. 

In the nearly 50 years I have been behind this desk I have had multiple encounters with the Corps of Engineers. Some have been really rewarding and others… not so much. Way back, a group came up with a plan that entailed use of some property at the mouth of Bee Run. We had a series of meetings with the Corps before they said no. One of the interesting things that came from those meeting was a local resident provided a Master Plan for Sutton Lake, developed by the Corps when they first conceived the proposal of building the Dam. It was obviously a piece intended to soften the blow of condemnation of hundreds of acres of Braxton County property. It was amazing what the Corps promised to provide in exchange for taking the land. Most of those amenities never came to fruition. In fact, that Master Plan seems to have disappeared. Now the Corps is taking it to a new level and going to charge us $5 a day to swim in our own lake.

While I’m not surprised. I really, really don’t like it.