Special funding promotes efficient, sustainable recreation

By Scott Clemans, Public Affairs Office

The Willamette Valley Project is removing old, deteriorating restrooms at Lakeside Park and replacing them with more efficient vault-style toilets that are easier and less expensive to maintain. (Photo by Tami Schroeder, Willamette Valley Project)

The Willamette Valley Project is removing old, deteriorating restrooms at Lakeside Park and replacing them with more efficient vault-style toilets that are easier and less expensive to maintain. (Photo by Tami Schroeder, Willamette Valley Project)

Like many other business lines, the Corps’ recreation program has been in a financial jam in recent years.

“Funding has declined or remained the same, while the cost of managing and maintaining facilities has increased,” said Willamette Valley Project Park Manager Tami Schroeder. “Recent budgets have usually covered basic maintenance and operational costs, but not the costs to improve, repair or replace aging and deteriorating facilities.”

Fortunately, Portland District recreation managers have been able to take advantage of a new funding source to make improvements that will lead to leaner but meaner recreation facilities and programs.

The Lakeside Park restrooms were installed in 1981. Willamette Valley Project recreation managers are taking advantage of NRAP funding to replace the restrooms now, instead of waiting until there are major problems they cannot afford to fix. (Photo by Christie Johnson, Willamette Valley Project)

The Lakeside Park restrooms were installed in 1981. Willamette Valley Project recreation managers are taking advantage of NRAP funding to replace the restrooms now, instead of waiting until there are major problems they cannot afford to fix. (Photo by Christie Johnson, Willamette Valley Project)

The District landed National Recreation Adjustment Plan funding to add new and upgrade existing volunteer camp host sites at Schwarz Park near Dorena Reservoir, replace deteriorating restrooms at Lakeside Park near Cottage Grove Reservoir and stabilize sections of the river bank at Lepage Park on the John Day River.

Upgrading the existing Schwarz Park volunteer camp host sites and constructing four additional full hook-up sites will allow Willamette Valley Project park rangers to recruit up to 14 highly-skilled volunteers each recreation season.

Those volunteers assist visitors and perform maintenance in Corps-managed parks around Cottage Grove and Dorena reservoirs, resulting in improved customer service, better-maintained facilities and grounds, and significant cost savings.

The Willamette Valley Project is also removing old, deteriorating restrooms at Lakeside Park and replacing them with more efficient vault-style toilets that are easier and less expensive to maintain.

Replacing the current restroom facilities with concrete vault toilets will reduce operation and maintenance costs and decrease stress on the aging water and sewage systems at Cottage Grove Reservoir.

“The water system [at Lakeside Park] was installed in the late 70s, and the old restrooms were installed in 1981,” Schroeder said. “We are taking advantage of the NRAP funding opportunity to replace the restrooms now, instead of waiting until there are major problems that we cannot afford to fix.”

The new facilities will also better accommodate people with disabilities.

Stabilizing the river bank at LePage Park will increase the safety and usability of several riverside RV camp sites, and an access road that serves all of the park’s RV sites.

“We had multiple high water events this year that caused some pretty serious erosion,” said Melissa Rinehart, acting chief of Portland District’s Natural Resources Management section. “The bank had eroded close enough that we might have had to close some of the shoreline sites and the access road.”

If the shoreline camp sites and the access road had to be closed down, the park would have faced a potential seasonal revenue loss of almost $100,000. The cost to replace lost infrastructure from further erosion could have been three to six times the cost of the bank stabilization.

The National Recreation Adjustment Plan supports local projects that promote efficiency and sustainability while continuing to provide high-quality recreation opportunities. NRAP funding is awarded through a competitive process.

“The NRAP funding is specifically targeted at projects that fix a safety issue, increase visitation or reduce operating costs,” said Rinehart. “The ultimate goal is to operate more cost efficiently.”

Some of the criteria used to rate project proposals include benefit-to-cost ratio, economic and social impacts, partner involvement, and compatibility with a district’s or operating project’s overall efficiency plan.

All of the district’s project proposals were highly rated in the NRAP competitive process.

The NRAP program is part of the 2011 National Recreation Strategic Plan, which is focused on making the Corps’ recreation program more sustainable for the future.

District recreation managers will undoubtedly continue to face tight budgets in the future. But the creative use of NRAP and other alternative funding sources will help ensure that projects promoting efficient, sustainable high-quality recreation continue to be implemented at Portland District parks.