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Two camping hot spots open this winter
Tina Brown of Cumming walks Chipper through Bolding Mill Park on a recent afternoon while camping in the park's campground with family for the weekend. Normally, area U.S. Corps of Engineer Parks will be closing for the season after Sunday, but Bolding Mill's campground is staying open using volunteer camp hosts. - photo by Scott Rogers

Camping season

* These Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds on Lake Lanier closed Sunday: Old Federal, Duckett Mill, Bald Ridge and Van Pugh South

* These will stay open through March: Bolding Mill and Sawnee (starting at 7:30 a.m. today)

* To make reservations, visit or call 877-444-6777.

GAINESVILLE -- Those who enjoy cool weather camping can rejoice: The Army Corps of Engineers plans to have two of its Lake Lanier campgrounds open through March.

Initially, the corps planned to close all of its six campgrounds this past Sunday but later decided to keep Sawnee, which is in Forsyth County, and Bolding Mill in Hall County open through the fall and winter.

“We’ve regrouped,” said Park Ranger Robert Daniel, campground manager. “I took it over this year, and I’m taking a different approach. September, October and November are the best months to camp.

“There are several groups who like to have Thanksgiving in the campground, which is very unique.”

The corps has kept Sawnee campground open the past couple of winters. By extending the season at Bolding Mill, “we’re trying to offer services on the north and south end of the lake,” Daniel said.

Bolding Mill is at 4055 Chestatee Road in northwest Hall. Sawnee is at 3200 Buford Dam Road, just north of Buford Dam.

Corps campgrounds that closed Sunday were: Old Federal, Duckett Mill, Bald Ridge and Van Pugh South.

Making all the campgrounds year-round “is the direction I’m trying to go, at least keeping some of the ones that are highly visited open until Dec. 1,” Daniel said.

“There’s a lot of pressure on budgetary funds. If we can show the need, then I might be able to keep the contractors in place and proceed forward. That’s my goal.”

The corps has operated Bolding Mill since April with an all-volunteer staff. Before this past season, because of budget constraints, the corps had reduced the number of days per week the campground had been open to four.

However, by handing over services to volunteers that contractors previously handled, Bolding Mill was able to return to daily operations.

“It was successful,” Daniel said. “We learned a lot. As we proceed, we’ll iron out the rest of the kinks, and it should run super-smooth next year.”

Eventually, volunteer-run efforts might expand to other campgrounds.

“It’s still one of those things where we working with it as we’re go and see how efficiently we can run Bolding Mill with volunteers...and if it would be feasible to run some of the more visited parks with volunteers,” Daniel said.

Karen Eastwood of Cumming, a volunteer hostess at Bolding Mill, said she believes the volunteer efforts are “going real well.”

“Everybody has given us the most positive feedback,” she said.

Also, “I think it’s great they’re leaving the park open all year because some people would prefer to camp in the fall and winter,” Eastwood said. “I think it’s an awesome decision.”

Earlier this year, the corps began trying to attract volunteers to perform duties normally held by contractors. In exchange for 20 hours of service a week, volunteers can stay for free at the campgrounds, Natural Resource Manager Nick Baggett has said.

Volunteer campground sites at Bolding Mill have full hookups for large motor homes, including water, sewer and electricity, he said.