Businesses at Mark Twain Lake adapt to social distancing guidelines

Businesses at Mark Twain Lake adapt to social dist
Several boaters are out enjoying Mark Twain Lake near the boat ramp at Ray Behrens Recreation Area on Tuesday afternoon.
Mike Thomas/Courier-Post
By Mike Thomas
Courier-Post Sports Editor
Posted: May. 7, 2020 8:28 am Updated: May. 7, 2020 8:34 am

With summer quickly approaching and the stay-at-home order lifted, Mark Twain Lake is preparing for an influx of visitors.

The U.S. Corps of Engineers St. Louis District estimates that over two million people visit Mark Twain Lake each year.

Prior to this week, only Mark Twain State Park boat ramps were opened. On Monday, the U.S. Corps of Engineers opened up the boat ramps at Ray Behrens, John F. Spalding, Indian Creek, Bluff View and the Warren G. See South Spillway Recreation Area opened.

“As of Monday, all of the U.S. Corps of Engineers boat ramps are opened,” said U.S Corps of Engineers employee Mary Heitmeyer. “They all have courtesy docks for the convenience of the visitor, and there's restrooms at each location.”

Many of the vendors at Mark Twain Lake are operating with some restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cannon Dam Cabins and General Store has mostly limited their business to carry out, and mainly interacts with customers through their service window.

“As far as the state having guidelines on reopening, that has not changed our position at all,” said owner Kurt Meyer. “Considering that the bulk of our traffic in our store is coming from more than 100 miles away … it doesn't seem prudent for us to allow those people who have traveled so far to come into our store. That is facilitate the spread of the virus.”

Meyer said there was a spike in traffic at Mark Twain Lake over last weekend when the weather was nice. He added that there was some overcrowding due to the U.S. Corps of Engineers boat ramps still being closed last weekend.

“(Re-opening the U.S. Corps of Engineers boat ramps) should alleviate overcrowding and that's good,” Meyer said. “Something I noticed over the weekend with regards to this lake and outdoor activity in general, is there is no competition. What I mean by that is there are no ballgames, there's no concerts and there's no real indoor entertainment of any kind that is allowable right now.”

Cabin rentals have still been going strong for Meyer's business, although the pool is closed at this time. Meyer said the recent $1,200 stimulus check may have increased cabin reservations.

“We are trying to wait at least 24 hours between letting different groups of people occupy the cabins that facilitate better distance connections of the cabins,” Meyer said. “We are using a higher level of disinfectant than usual, and we are cleaning with even more vigor than normal.”

Indian Creek Marina reopened their business on Monday after being declared a non-essential business during the stay-at-home order. Prior to Monday, Indian Creek Marina were not issuing boat rentals and had their sales and service building open by appointment only.

Indian Creek Marina employee Jaycee Neice said business usually picks up around Memorial Day Weekend.

“Our main customers right now are fishermen,” Neice said. “Once the kids get out of school, that's when we typically start to get more of the pleasure boaters, who are out tubing and stuff like that.”

Indian Creek Marina also has a convenience store and restaurant, with the restaurant not yet opened. They have been selling fish bait through a window, and limit customers to no more than two at a time in the store.

“(When the restaurant opens), we will probably be in masks, plexiglass and purely to-go orders,” Neice said. “We don't have a very big place to seat a lot of people. Of course, we will follow whatever the health department guidelines are.”

Heitmeyer said the U.S. Corps of Engineers does not have any specific regulations in place at Mark Twain Lake right now.

“We are of course encouraging social distancing and frequent handwashing, just like the CDC is promoting,” Heitmeyer said. “We don't have any specific regulations here based upon the pandemic.”

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