California’s Lake Mendocino’s largest and most popular campgrounds will be remain closed for most, if not all, of the recreational season to allow for a $3.4 million bathroom renovation project funded by federal stimulus grants, according to the Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, Calif.

The Bushay and Kyen campgrounds on the northeast side of the lake, some 100 miles north of San Francisco, will be closed for construction work, which includes replacing 10 bathrooms and putting in new sewage leach fields.

“Everything’s 50 years old,” said Kevin Heape, park manager of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ recreation area just north of Ukiah.

The campgrounds — with about 250 campsites — serve the majority of people who stay overnight at Lake Mendocino. They are the only sites with showers and flush toilets, he said.

The other two campgrounds at Lake Mendocino have less than 40 campsites, about half of which are accessible only by boat.

The closures are a disappointment to regular lake campers, Heape said.

“Some families have come for 20 years,” he said. “We watch their kids grow up every year. It’s the most enjoyable part of being a park ranger.”

Campers also were frustrated last year when Bushay was closed in anticipation of the construction project, which then was delayed, Heape said.

Merchants that depend on the campers’ business also are disappointed.

“We get a fair amount of people who come from that campground,” said Randy Hoover, owner of the Forks Ranch Market at the southwest side of the lake. But most of his business is from day users of the recreation area, which attracts a half million visitors a year.

The Superette in Calpella to the north will feel a greater impact. “It’s really going to hurt,” said Sandy Pronsolino, the store business manager.

Lake Mendocino is a large reservoir covering 1,922 acres (three square miles). It was formed by the construction of Coyote Dam in 1958. The lake and dam provide flood control, water conservation, hydroelectric power and recreation.