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home : opinions : opinions June 24, 2016

2/18/2014 12:50:00 PM
Leave Creekside Campground alone
By Ed Protas

The proposed renovation of the Creekside Campground gives every appearance of another Milo Minderbinder Enterprise. Milo Minderbinder, some of you may recall, was a character of fiction in Joseph Heller's book Catch-22. Minderbinder conceived of every possible way to turn things into money-making ventures. He was all about getting the money, and his plans bordered on insanity.

The campground adjacent to Creekside Park is a pretty nice place. I have backpacked, toured by bicycle, and camped in Oregon, Washington, California, Alaska, Idaho, and Montana, and I think the one at Creekside is at the upper end of the scale. It is within walking distance to downtown, reasonably priced; and with hot showers, it's a pretty sweet deal all around. It has a growing, positive reputation.

Sisters is 15 miles from the Pacific Crest Trail, and directly on the Transamerica Bicycle Route. The Adventure Cycling Association estimates that as many as 10,000 cyclists ride across America each year, and that number is rapidly growing. Sisters is a natural stopping and overnight point on that route. 

Additionally, the Sisters Stampede, the McKenzie Pass Scenic Bikeway, the Ride for Two Rivers, and the Peterson Ridge Trails draw huge numbers of cycling tourists to town, and those numbers also grow each year. On a nice summer weekend it is not uncommon to see a couple hundred cyclists riding up the McKenzie Hwy. They are not all locals, and many stay at the campground. A Sisters Stampede economic survey identified an $870,000 injection into our community last year.

Currently over 60 percent of the Creekside spaces do not have hookups. These spaces are primarily for tent camping (yes, on dirt), and they are generally well-populated. It is shortsighted to disregard or place less importance on the visiting experience of someone who camps in a tent and not a fancy RV.

But the proposed renovation does just that. The plan is to cut down over two dozen trees, add more spaces, pour tons of concrete pads, align them like matchsticks as close together as possible, and provide full-service hookups at every one. And ... you guessed it, charge a bigger fee for their use. It is all about the revenue stream. It is pure Milo Minderbinder, and it comes right on the heels of another such ill-thought-out proposal, the outdoor amphitheater. It is based upon a mindset that says, "Build it and they will come."

And while the city manager states that tent camping will not be precluded, how many tent campers will enjoy the experience of paying a full-service fee to place their tent on a concrete pad, between motorhomes with their air conditioners running, with the noise and fumes of big rigs coming and going? There is no other place in town to camp.

People come to Sisters for a certain experience. It is that experience that has brought many of us here to live. It is the reason that hundreds of Sisters Country residents came together years ago to create a Vision Statement that would help to guide and protect the future of our town. That statement expresses a goal that encourages walking and cycling. You simply cannot attract tourists to our community, make it a miserable experience, and expect them to return. 

Arguably such a renovation might improve the revenue stream, but the city has offered no evidence of any meaningful revenue projections based on historical data. And there has been no estimate of development cost, or any return-on-investment projections. So whether or not you agree with my assessment of how the camping experience will be worsened, to even consider spending public money on any project without proper analysis is at best ill-advised, and financially negligent.

I appreciate the need to support our local economy, but this is not the way. Please make your opinions known.

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