By MARK FREEMAN
The public boat ramps at Hyatt Lake will be closed at least until mid-May because of federal budget cutbacks plaguing the Bureau of Land Management’s summer recreation program in Southern Oregon.
The cuts prompted a BLM hiring freeze that left the agency short on summer workers needed to prep campsites and the two boat ramps at the agency’s Hyatt Lake Recreation Complex. The boat ramps were rebuilt last summer.
The campgrounds and ramps were set to open April 15 in advance of the April 27 opening of the trout-fishing season at the popular reservoir off Highway 66 east of Ashland.
Now they will be closed until at least May 15 while the BLM sorts out how to staff its recreational properties with fewer than one-third of the seasonal employees it typically hires.
“We don’t have enough people to prepare things that need to be handled at Hyatt Lake,” BLM spokesman Jim Whittington said Thursday. “We want to be able to get it to the standard it needs to be before opening.
“I think they will be open at some point, but not right away,” he said.
Other recreation sites within the BLM’s Medford District also could see their seasons delayed or canceled, but no decisions on other sites have been made yet, Whittington said.
The BLM’s two ramps at the lake’s south end are the only public launch sites on the lake since the Bureau of Reclamation blocked access to the ramp at Campers Cove.
The BLM ramps and adjacent parking lots were rebuilt last summer at a cost of $426,000, split between state and federal funds.
Hyatt Lake is a popular trout-fishing destination during the early part of the season before the lake warms, and again in the fall before the Oct. 31 close of the angling year there. The lake is stocked annually with rainbow trout to support the angling season.
Dan VanDyke, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Rogue District fish biologist, said he heard about the delayed opening Wednesday and has tried to find a way to get boat access to the lake for the April 27 opener.
“To not have any boat access, any boat ramps, even for three weeks definitely isn’t good,” VanDyke said. “I don’t like the thought of no boats on that lake. Boating is really how you get to the best fishing spots.”
The BLM’s hiring freeze came after the district was able to hire fewer than 20 summer seasonal employees to handle work at the BLM’s myriad recreational facilities here, Whittington said. The agency typically hires more than 60 seasonal workers, he said.
The Hyatt Lake Recreation Complex totals 47 pull-in campsites and seven walk-in sites as well as group camping, a day-use shelter, restrooms and showers, a recreational vehicle dump station, equestrian campsite and a fish-cleaning station.
It costs the BLM about $170,000 a year to run the complex, and campground fees cover about one-fourth of that, Whittington said.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.