Several changes proposed to revamp Topaz Lake camping |

Several changes proposed to revamp Topaz Lake camping

Topaz Lake is a popular camping spot, but new rules are in the works for the park Douglas County operates there.
John Flaherty

A change was proposed for Topaz Lake Campground after it was found that many campers were placing empty envelopes inside the payment boxes instead of paying their camping fees.

The current honor system self-paid program is by far the largest problem in the operation of the south county park, according to Douglas County.

Campers and day-use visitors are supposed to pay their fees by placing cash in an envelope and depositing it into a locked container. However, there was no way of telling who paid for what. Sometimes, the envelopes wouldn’t be retrieved for a couple days, long after the campers had left.

Primitive camping is $20, while dry camping is $25. Recreational vehicle spots are $35. The park charges $5 to reserve a spot.

Cash handling at the Topaz Campground was a point of investigation during the Grand Jury report this year after issues were brought to their attention.

The first incident prompting the investigation was over Fourth of July weekend, when there were large discrepancies in amounts that were collected, versus amounts that were actually deposited. A Topaz Lake Park ranger told the Grand Jury it was caused by double entries, and it was determined the staff was improperly trained in daily deposit procedures.

The second incident occurred over Labor Day weekend, in which an entire day’s worth of cash and check receipts were missing. During the investigation, the documents could never be produced.

“No satisfactory explanation of how an entire day’s receipts could go missing without anyone noticing was ever provided to the Grand Jury,” the report stated.

The recreation commission is recommending an electronic payment system, which will also allow payments to be made via debit or credit card, and each visitor will be issued a receipt as proof of payment.

“The new system is more efficient, improves accountability, and enhances both customer service and revenue,” said Community Services Director Scott Morgan.

The proposal would also eliminate the ability for one-night stays during the weekends during peak season, namely weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day. In order to reserve a camp spot, both Friday and Saturday nights must be purchased.

Despite the new auto pay service, campsites will no longer be rentable from the park itself. Only primitive camping, boat launch, day use and donations can be collected in the park. Payments for camping reservations must now be paid by phone or in person at the Parks Division office during regular business hours.

A new cancellation policy for reserved spaces was also proposed.

The previous policy for cancellation really only played a part on larger rentals, such as renting out Lampe Park for a special event. In that case, 30 days notice was needed for a full refund.

Under the new policy, specifically for Topaz Lake Park camping, that number will be adjusted to a minimum of eight days notice during regular business hours prior to the reserved date.

The Group Camping area will also be dissolved. The proposed changes will eliminate the $200 group camp area, and instead the area will be sectioned off into individual camping. People can still group camp, however, as long as they reserve individual spaces next to each other ahead of time.

At the end of the Grand Jury’s investigation, it was found that “The Grand Jury sees a failure of management in these errors involving cash collection at Topaz Lake and concludes that the present method of collecting payments at Topaz Lake shows a lack of competence and oversight.”