Closed for the season. They are four words diner owner Mike Tripp hates but hears almost daily.
"We go from doing pretty good to trying to figure out how we're going to make it," he explains.
Customers can no longer enjoy the booths once sat in by Elvis Presley and getting that famous cheeseburger is out of the question.
"I would have quit this business a long time ago if it wasn’t so fun to come here," says Tripp.
Much, if not all, of Tripp’s business comes from visitors at Crystal Springs Campground on Lake Ouachita. It’s just about a mile behind the diner.
The bad news came back in October. Tripp was told that all but one site on each of three Arkansas lakes would close for eight months of the year. Tripp had no other option but to close up shop.
"When this park shuts down it's like flipping off a switch," he says.
Three months have passed and Tripp is now fighting back. The chosen camp site for Lake Ouachita is Tompkins Bend. It’s about 11 miles west of Crystal Springs.
Tompkins Bend had about 53,000 fewer visitors than Crystal Springs last year. The Core of Engineers though says Tompkins Bend Campground will stay open because it cheaper to operate.
Tripp says, "Tompkins Bend is cheaper to operate because no one wants to go there."
"If we can get our budgetary needs met what we want to do is open the campgrounds back to the point of where they were last year," says James Ross with the Vicksburg Corps of Engineers District.
But Tripp is already losing money and says next year is too late. He'll have to make a decision in the next 60 days if he should sell.
"I have spent every dime that I’ve got. I have a home equity loan. I have a credit car that is maxed out. I have just about hit the wall," he explains.
Congressman Mike Ross is behind the push to get the campsites back up and running. They’ve introduced a piece of legislation that would require a minimum of 80 percent of fees collected by the Corps of Engineers Recreation to be reinvested into the facilities. It will be at least a month before it's considered.
Crystal Springs Campground has gotten a little bit of a break. They are the only site in the state that the Corps has allowed to be closed for six months instead of eight. It will reopen in March.
Click the link below the pictures for a list of affected Arkansas campgrounds.