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story.lead_photo.caption A sunset on Millwood Lake in southwest Arkansas is shown in this undated file photo. ( The Sentinel-Record / Corbet Deary)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is planning a phased reopening of campsites and recreation areas in Arkansas that were closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The sites will begin reopening May 20.

The reopenings include facilities along the Arkansas River and many popular lakes, including Beaver, Bull Shoals, Greers Ferry, Millwood, Norfork and Ouachita.

The sites being reopened are in the Corps' Little Rock and Vicksburg districts. The Little Rock District is among the most visited Corps districts in the nation, with nearly 150 public parks and access areas in Arkansas and southern Missouri.

"We're working closely with our state and local government partners to ensure visitors can safely transition back into our parks," said Col. Eric Noe, commander of the Corps' Little Rock District. "The decision to reopen our sites in Arkansas and southern Missouri is specific to each recreation area and is based largely on the safety of the staff and visitors."

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]

A complete list of Little Rock District site statuses can be found at swl.usace.army.mil.

Visitor centers, playgrounds, shelters and swim beaches are subject to local orders, according to a news release from the Corps' Little Rock District. Other parks will remain closed because of current high water or because of record flooding along the Arkansas River last year.

Campground reservations and payments must be made in advance at recreation.gov, according to the news release. Some campsites and/or parks will remain closed until they can be placed into the reservation system.

Reopenings in the Vicksburg district include some campgrounds at Lake Ouachita, Lake Greeson and DeGray Lake in Arkansas. A list of all those campgrounds can be found at www.mvk.usace.army.mil.

"After consulting with our local and state partners and other USACE offices, including the Little Rock District and our higher headquarters, the Mississippi Valley Division, we have decided to reopen select campgrounds at our Arkansas lakes," said the Corps' Vicksburg District Commander Col. Robert Hilliard.

"The health and safety of our team, our community and our visitors remain our top priority, and we are taking measures to reduce risk," Hilliard said. "The pandemic is an ongoing and fluid challenge, and we will continue to monitor conditions and adjust operations as needed. We are eager to welcome visitors back to our facilities, and we will continue to provide updates about our recreation facilities as they become available."

All pavilions, picnic areas, beaches, playgrounds, amphitheaters and drinking fountains will remain closed until further notice, according to a news release from the Corps' Vicksburg District. "These closures are intended to prevent large gatherings and common use of high-touch surfaces."

Social distancing guidelines must be observed by visitors, according to news releases from the Corps' Little Rock and Vicksburg districts. Current guidance provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can be found at cdc.gov.

Tim Griffis of Benton, who has a private fishing camp on the Arkansas River near Tichnor, said he's happy to hear that the Corps' facilities will reopen soon.

"I find it unusual that these campgrounds are closed," said Griffis, who works as a cardiac sonographer. "I find one of the best ways for people to quarantine is to go camping.

"I think it's a great idea personally to totally reopen. Fishing in these camping areas is not like a deep-sea fishing where you're all on the same boat."

Much of east Arkansas is in the Corps' Memphis District, which hadn't announced a reopening plan for its Arkansas campsites as of Saturday.

SundayMonday on 05/10/2020

Print Headline: Corps set to reopen park sites in region

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