Cooper Lake State Park open; spillway road closed

Oct 2, 2013

Cooper Lake State Park remains open. But, the road to the spillway - which is not within the park boundaries - has been closed.

Two days into the federal government shutdown, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff have been emphasizing to the public that state parks remain open.

"We're not affected by any means," said Cody Waters, who supervises Cooper Lake State Park from his office in the South Sulphur Unit area on the lake's south side. "We are Texas Parks and Wildlife, we are state government. We are not federal government, so this government shutdown has nothing to do with us."

However, not all the public land around the lake is part of the state park. Large areas on the western and eastern shores of the lake make up the Cooper Wildlife Management Area, which is state-administered, but not part of the state park. The park occupies land along the north shore (Doctor's Creek Unit) and south shore (South Sulphur Unit).

The federal government's involvement in the lake is through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the lake itself. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers monitors the levels and authorizes water releases from the dam on the lake's east side - though releases have been a rare occurrence in recent years, owing to low levels.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages the lake from a small office in the Cooper Wildlife Management Area on the east side of the lake, near the spillway and the dam.

The road to the spillway has been closed, presumably related to the federal shutdown. Calls to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office on Wednesday afternoon were not answered.

Waters said on Wednesday that as far as he knew, that was the only road closed on any of the public lands around the lake.

"The one behind the dam is the only one, I think, that will be shut down," Water said. "They have shut the gate on that lower road behind the dam, but all the rest of it is open."