by The Associated Press
ATHENS - Officials have closed public fishing access to Bear Creek Reservoir because some people were driving out onto the dry lake bed left by the drought.
The Jackson County Parks and Recreation Department manages fishing in the four-county public water supply. The department locked the gates to the public access area on Georgia 330 last week to keep people from driving across the dry lake bed and onto neighboring private land.
Bear Creek provides drinking water to people in Clarke, Barrow, Jackson and Oconee counties.
The drought has left the reservoir 13 feet below its normal level, which means there's about 30 more yards of cracked mud around the waterline than there was this time last year.
Ricky Sanders is director of the parks and recreation service. He says some visitors took advantage of the exposed ground to drive around the lake, trespassing into the backyards of lakefront homeowners.
There are plans to open the reservoir to boat fishing, but officials with the Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority are negotiating how the four member counties would split the cost of maintaining and managing the needed boat ramp.