Lake had busy Labor Day weekendBy Lindsay Reed

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Although area marina owners experienced a dismal 2008 tourist season due to flooding that occurred across the county in April and May, many of them reported a very successful Labor Day weekend.

"It was a great weekend and busier Labor Day than normal," said Gene Stimble, Campbell Point Marina owner. "I think because Memorial Day weekend was tough, due to the flooding, when the lake was back to normal the first week in August, everyone was excited to be back out on the water."

Big M Marina owner Denver Dixon and Eagle Rock Marina owner Darrell Tilford also saw a lot of activity on Table Rock Lake over Labor Day weekend.

"Activity on the lake was real good," said Dixon. "The weekend was excellent weatherwise and excellent trafficwise. It was a really good way to end the year."

"There was a tremendous amount of boat traffic on the lake, but people were not buying as much and we didn't have as many rentals," said Tilford. "I think the combination of the weather and the inflated gas prices on the highways kept people with more conservative incomes from coming down. We need a good cross section of all the people to be profitable."

At the beginning of July, when the lake reached a more normal level and most flood water receded, marina owners were able to repair most of the damage that was caused by spring floods.

"We have around 90 percent of our repairs completed," said Dixon. "We still have some repairs to make to our entry walkway that will have to wait until the season is over."

"We've been back to normal since July," said Tilford. "We have most of the ramp back. Of course, it didn't help when the lake rose three and a half feet last week."

When lake levels rose in May, Tilford added 80 feet of walkway at the marina to help lake goers access their boats. As waters receded, he considered removing the extra walkway.

"Thank goodness I didn't," said Tilford. "After we got all that rain last week, around 40 feet of the walkway was back in the water."

Even though marina owners recorded normal or slightly above normal sales over the holiday weekend, Labor Day was unable to boost marina profits to their normal annual levels. Many of the local marinas lost several thousand dollars this year.

"We missed 72 days at the beginning of the season. When you lose 72 days, you never regain that," said Dixon. "High gas prices were also a factor. The season started down and ended down with traffic count and the other things that we measure."

"This was the longest, shortest summer I've ever spent. It has been long because of the difficulties we have had," said Tilford. "When the rain subsided and the people started coming it went fast, but when business died, it died even more quickly than ever before. Next year is a new year though."

With a difficult tourist season behind them, marina owners are preparing for a more successful 2009 season, and hoping not to see another record rainfall.

"I think 2008 was just one of those once-in-a-lifetime years," said Stimble. "I think we've received over 66 inches of precipitation so far this year. We are hoping for normal rainfall next year.

"I think the U.S. Corps of Engineers will be more prepared for precipitation next year," said Stimble. "They will be able to start letting water out earlier to keep areas from flooding so much."

On a more positive note, Roaring River State Park experienced a successful Labor Day weekend and is on its way to recording a very successful year. Nearly 3,000 tags were sold between Aug. 30 and Sept. 1, which is nearly 100 more tags than were sold during the 2007 holiday weekend.

"We started out 2008 with three floods in March and April," said Jerry Dean, Roaring River Hatchery manager. "Tag sales were down earlier this year, but we have almost made up the difference. We ended August with around 4,000 tags sold."

Part of the reason August tag sales were up was the inclusion of an additional Saturday and Sunday in the month, said Dean.

"We are catching up to last year's totals," said Dean. "Our tag sales are so much dependent on the weather. I thought gas prices would affect us too but now I'm not sure that affected us much at all. The 2008 season will turn out to be a good season for us."

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