The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers held a public meeting Wednesday evening to discuss plans to shut down underused parks at area lakes during the winter months.

Resevoir Manager Ronnie Bruggman presented the plan, which would shut down certain camp grounds, boat ramps and pavilions from October 1 to March 1 each year. He cited a drastic drop in the number of people using the facilities during those months, as well as the cost of patrolling, maintaining and cleaning them.

According to data presented by Bruggman, Belton and Stillhouse parks receive 80% of their 2.3 million visitors each year during the months of March through September.

"Since we get 80% of our visitors in the summer, we're looking at realigning our priorities," he said.

“We’re trying to be as efficient and effective as we can with your tax dollars”.

Some in attendance expressed apprehensions about the plan, with many particularly concerned with Sparta Valley Park, which will be limited to day-use only. Residents near the park said the plan would force them to drive long distances to find an alternative ramp, while others said the ramp is one of the better ramps in the area and asked why it can't be left unlocked without an attendant.

Bruggman cited the area's problems with illegal dumping as the major reason for limiting its availability.

"Sparta Valley has a problem with people dumping household trash," he said. "We're trying to break that chain."

Some citizens suggested making use of more volunteers to help maintain the parks and areas surrounding boat ramps. Bruggman said he would take as many volunteers as he could get.

"I can't stress enough that, when you talk about the abusive crowd that we get, we're trying to get volunteers because contracts cost us money., so we're trying to get people to help us do those things out there," he said. "I wish the visiting public were like you all and cared and had a passion for taking care of the quality that we have out there."

Bruggman stressed that people will still be welcome in the parks as long as they don't obstruct entrances, but that facilities like restrooms will be closed and there will be no one to clean up after citizens using the parks.

"If it's a pretty day and you want to come out, come out," he said. "We're not stopping people from coming out. If someone wants to park out there and come in, sit on the beach and read a book, go for it. We're not trying to stop that."

Attendees were encouraged to fill out comment cards at the meeting or take them home to be mailed to the Corps later. The comment period for the proposed winterization plan runs until August 30.

Comments and inquiries about the proposed closures can be emailed to bnshfrontdesk@gmail.com. For more information, go to http://www.swf-wc.usace.army.mil/belton/ and http://www.swf-wc.usace.army/mil/stillhouse/.