Waco parks close as part of government slimdown
The Army Corps of Engineers closed six Lake Waco parks Tuesday as a result of Monday’s gridlock in Congress that resulted in a partial government shutdown.
Midway Park, Speegleville Park, Airport Park, Koehne Park, Bosque Park and Twin Bridges Park all closed indefinitely, said Randy Cephus, the deputy public affairs officer for the Fort Worth District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“Without funding, we can’t operate,” Cephus said. “There are second and third effects. First we shut down the facilities, then people will go through furloughing.”
Cephus said the Corps did not know the closures would take place until the last minute.
A few minutes before midnight Monday, Budget Director Sylvia Burwell issued a directive to federal agencies to “execute plans for an orderly shutdown.” An estimated 800,000 federal workers face furloughs.
Critical parts of the government such as the military and air traffic control will not close.
Cephus said military personnel employed by parks services will also not be affected.
The number of Lake Waco park employees who will be on unpaid leave during this government shutdown is unknown right now, but it will be a large portion of the parks personnel, Cephus said. The most nonessential personnel will go on temporary leave first.
According to a press release by the Army Corps of Engineers, the Corps will not be accepting reservations or allow any new visitors to enter recreational facilities. Those currently camping or visiting Corps sites must leave no later than 8 p.m. today.
Visitors who have already paid for access and those who have made reservations will be given partial or full refunds, according to the Corps’ press release.
People with reservations may also hold those reservations for a later date until the government closure is lifted.
Cephus said there is no projected date for independent reopening if the government shutdown is not resolved in the near future.
“Only those things that are critical, involving life safety or public safety, will remain open,” Cephus said. “Parks are recreational so they’re the first to close.”
The closure of national parks is among the most visible parts of the partial government shutdown.
Late Tuesday, House Republicans tried to amend the current closure by reopening certain areas of the federal establishment. Those areas included the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Park Service and a portion of the Washington, D.C., government funded by local tax revenue.
Senate Democrats opposed this attempt to open select areas and have said Republicans should not choose which agencies will open and which will remain shut.
Reynolds Creek and Airport Beach Parks, also on Lake Waco, were closed before the government shutdown went into effect for winter break and renovations, respectively. Facilities that are managed by the city, such as Cameron Park, will not be affected.
For information about park refunds, call 1-888-448-1474.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.