Shutdown Hurting Some Belton Businesses Dependent on Lake

As the federal government pushes toward a full week of being shut down, the effects are rippling further.

Local parks and boat ramps run by the Army Corps of Engineers are closed, and some local businesses are feeling it in their wallets.

It was a beautiful day Sunday at Frank's Marina on Lake Belton; a little windy, but a good day to get out on the water nonetheless.

Just, not right there at the marina.

"Our phone's just been going off the hook with people just asking which ramp is open," said Daniel Holman, an employee at the marina.

Telling people the ramp there is closed is a lot of what Holman's been doing at work the last couple days.

The ramps close to the marina are run by the Corps of Engineers, so they're closed.

That doesn't mean the lake itself is shut down, but it sure feels that way.

The gas pumps at the marina are also staying shut down, and that means they're losing at least a couple hundred dollars every day, because there just aren't boats out there that need to fill up.

Plus a bit more lost revenue from the store, beer and things like that.

"There ain't a boat out there," Loid Leclair said as he looked out on the water from the marina.

Leclair owns Old School Boat Rentals. His boats are just sitting.

"People without jobs, they can't rent boats," he said. "People that think the lake is closed ain't going to come on down."

And the longer the shutdown lasts, the more people worry. Some have had to change vacation plans already.

One person wrote on our Facebook page she had to take her kids on a three hour round trip to Lake Whitney instead of camping at Cedar Ridge in Belton, cutting the trip a day shorter.

Another wrote her family camps every year in October at the lake. But not this year.

"People are just really wondering" where they can get out on the water, Holman said, and when they'll be able to use their parks again.

But while some businesses are already feeling the impact on their bottom lines, others still have a bit of breathing room.

Enrique Irby works for the local National Guard armory in Belton. He's seen his hours cut during the shutdown.

"We're hoping that it'll pass pretty soon," he said.

But he didn't hesitate to bring his wife and daughter to Dead Fish Grill Sunday morning for brunch.

The lake just doesn't look exactly like he wants it to.

"It's nice to come out here and see people on the lake," Irby said, "because my daughter loves to see the wave runners and the boats. That's one of the reasons we come here also."

He's one of the locals keeping restaurants like Dead Fish Grill making money in the days since the government shut down.

"I think it would have to last quite a bit longer for us to really see a significant change," said general manager Troy Summerill.

If it lasts as long as the last one, it could turn into a problem.

But tourist numbers are down in the fall anyway, so they're not losing all that much business yet.

"I would think it would have to go into several weeks."

Kevin's Family Restaurant, a little farther from the lake, is doing just fine, too. They were too busy when we stopped by to give us an on-camera interview, but the owner said he hasn't noticed any impact from the shutdown in his cash drawer.

And even without the local support, it's not like the whole lake is shut down to tourists.

The boat ramps run by the Corps of Engineers are closed, but the Belton Lake Outdoor Recreational Area, BLORA, is open.

Cross the cattle guard on Sparta Road, and you're on Fort Hood property. BLORA's seen a huge uptick in the number of civilian boaters in the last few days.

But the regulars just want their options back.

"I would hope that we are able to use the lake again very soon," Irby said.

As the shutdown stretches into a week, who knows when "soon" will be.

If you do want to get out on the lake, the BLORA ramp is one of few not run by the Corps of Engineers.

It's $2 for military members, $4 for civilians.

And one interesting side effect: Fewer boats on the water means fewer chances to spread the invasive zebra mussels found in the lake this year.


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