Recreational users of Lake Waco have flocked to reopened parks and boat ramps this summer, making up for time lost to flooding in May and June.
But a few parks still have extensive flood damage and may not reopen until April, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials said this week.
Airport Beach and Airport Park remain closed, along with the day-use area at Reynolds Creek and trails at Lacy Point.
Roads, campsites and infrastructure were damaged by floodwater that peaked at 17 feet above normal elevation after Memorial Day weekend storms. Lake Manager Heath McLane with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimated it will cost $800,000 to repair the facilities.
That includes replacing pumps at sewer lift stations and rebuilding eroded campsites at Airport Park, the most popular campground on the lake.
McLane said the work likely will have to be funded through the lake’s routine annual budget of $2.9 million rather than through supplemental federal funding that he had hoped to receive. He said the Airport Beach boat ramp should open early this month, but the other closed facilities probably cannot be repaired before the lake parks shut down for the winter in October.
Other facilities began to reopen around July 4, including Midway Park, Koehne Park, Speegleville Park, Twin Bridges Park, Lacy Point and Flat Rock boat ramps and the campground at Reynolds Creek. Marinas at the lake also have reopened.
McLane said he expects visitation to the lake, which is usually about 1 million a year, will be down by more than half this year because of the loss of prime recreation months.
The good news is that the parks that are open have been more popular than usual this summer.
“The parks are all packed,” he said. “People are definitely coming out and our boat ramps are full every weekend. In a normal season, after July 4, attendance is reduced because it’s too hot. This year, they’ve come out even in the hot weather.”
Among the attractions is the swim beach at Twin Bridges Park off State Highway 6. McLane said that instead of washing the beach sand away, the high water moved piles of sand the Corps had bought and piled up.
“We got lucky in that the high water spread it out for us,” he said. “The sand actually washed onto the beach.”
The lake level Monday was about 2.5 inches below its authorized level of 462 feet above sea level.
Rich Chatmas, owner of Lake Waco Marina and the Slippery Minnow restaurant, agreed that lake traffic has recovered nicely, though he still has damage to repair.
“We’re open and doing well,” he said. “I think everyone really missed the lake. We can’t really make up for a month and a half of being closed, but we can still have a decent rest of the summer. It’s been like Memorial Day all over again, even though this time of year things usually slow down because of the heat.”