Viney Creek tabbed for closure
Federal budget cuts force recreational area to shut down
Due to $500,000 in budget cuts to the Table Rock Lake and Dam, the Viney Creek Recreational Area will not be open to visitors this season.
Laurie Driver, public affairs specialist with the Army Corps of Engineers in Little Rock, Ark., said Viney Creek was chosen for closure based on a number of factors, including funding, the number of visitors, and the lack of an outside municipality or non-profit to lease the area. Golden, the town nearest to Viney Creek, is unincorporated and has a population of 280, according to the 2010 census.
"Federal funding is declining, and Congress funds the Corps of Engineers on a line item by line item basis," Driver said. "The Table Rock Lake and Dam project office had a $3.1 million budget last year, and has a $2.6 million budget this year, and that does not include employees like park rangers, but is solely for its recreation budget, like gate attendance, supplies and security.
Driver said Viney Creek Recreational Area cost $43,852.69 to operate in 2013, and it recorded 14,304 visitors, making it the least-visited of the 17 parks, including Viney Creek, managed by the Table Rock Lake and Dam project office. The most-visited of those parks is Indian Point near Branson, which recorded 394,760 visitors last year.
The project office is also looking to downsize more, as another of its parks is in the process of being leased for use, freeing it from the project office's funding requirements.
In 2013, Viney Creek Recreational Area collected about $30,000 in usage fees, but Driver said that money is shipped directly to U.S. Treasury coffers, not back to the project office.
"The Forestry Service and National Park Service get to keep a percentage of their user fees, but the Corps of Engineers does not get to keep any of that money," she said. "Viney Creek's closing all comes down to economics. We don't look at just how profitable a park is. We also look at what services are offered and how many people it serves."
Driver said the Corps has offered for a municipality or nonprofit organization to lease the area, but no one has stepped forward. The area does not have a commercial marina, and Driver said the lack of one may have kept outside organizations from getting on board.
"Not having a commercial marina certainly did not help," she said. "If it did have one, it may have helped it get more visitors and help convince a municipality to lease it.
"It looks like most of the park's usage is from people who live in south Missouri and northern Arkansas, and we understand it is important to the folks that use it all the time, but if you don't have the money, you don't have the money."
Driver said the park has been closed for the winter season since last year, and will not open this coming season. The gates will remain closed, and anyone who attempts to use the area would be in violation of federal regulations and face trespassing charges.
Some of the other parks managed by the Table Rock Lake and Dam project office may see different hours this year because of budget cuts. Driver said the parks open at different times between March and May, and some with reduced attendance may open later and close earlier as the Corps of Engineers is working to reduce costs and be more efficient. She said the project office will decide the opening and closing days of each park individually.