BLACK BUTTE LAKE, Calif. - A new boat ramp at Black Butte Lake is open for business, just in time for the summer recreation season.

The ramp officially opened in a ribbon-cutting ceremony May 18 at the lake.

A grant from the California Department of Boating and Waterways funded the expansion project, which widened Buckhorn Recreation Area's existing boat ramp, improving boating access to the lake. The project also doubled the amount of parking at the ramp site and added wheelchair-accessible parking, solar-powered lighting and a new restroom. A new courtesy dock, paid for by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District, was also installed to further improve boating access for visitors.

"The project has really transformed the recreation area," said Black Butte senior park ranger, Bill Miller. "The old ramp was half the new ramp's size, so we'd see a lot of congestion as our visitors pulled their boats out at the end of the day. Now enjoying a day the lake is going to be easier for everyone."

"Our most important mission is to provide access to waterways for California's boaters," said Steve Watanabe, DBW's boating facilities division chief. "Where we're not able to do that on our own, we rely on our partners, like the Corps, to help us through our grant program."

Watanabe said he's been a Black Butte Lake fan since his college days at nearby California State University - Chico, when he'd come out to windsurf.

Funding for the project came from DBW's harbors and watercraft revolving fund, generated largely by state boat fuel taxes and vessel registration fees. "Projects like this are an example of how we're using these fees to give back to the boaters who pay them," Watanabe said.

Construction on the new facilities began in July 2010. The Sacramento District awarded a $1,221,121 contract for the project to Total Team Construction Services Inc. of West Sacramento in December 2009.

Helen Duree, vice chairman of the Orland Economic Development Council, said she hopes the new facility will attract new visitors to the park and the region.

"We've got a beautiful area out here," she said. "Having this beautiful new boat launch that rivals anything in the state is going to be a great asset for the community."