By Boyd C. Allen

Pilot Staff Writer

Curry County Commissioners voted Wednesday to move forward with the Elk River Campground Partnership.

After calling the three campsites on the Elk River — Sunshine and Butler bars and Laird Lake — “efficient, inexpensive and easy to run,” Curry County Parks Director Josh Hopkins had asked the board to approve the special use permit allowing the U.S. Forest Service to transfer control of the camps to the county parks department.

Under the agreement with the Forest Service, the county will assume management of the campgrounds for 20 years and, according to Hopkins, improve the camps and monitor them to ensure campers are paying and keeping the sites clean.

He said other plans include increasing signage in the area because campers often miss the turn to Laird Lake or assume they have gone the wrong way when the lake fails to appear quickly. He estimated the trip to the lake taking 22 minutes on rough roads after the turnoff.

U.S. Forest Service Recreation and River Permit Manager Bob Hemus listed activities on the river that the county could develop and promote to increase the use of the camps and the revenue they generate. He noted annual, recreational bike rides along the river as well as its potential for whitewater kayaking.

Hopkins said the camps sat along a Scenic Oregon Biking Corridor and added he planned to work with cyclists to increase their use of the camps. The actual use level of the camps and their revenue potential can only be estimated, he said, because they have not been promoted or monitored.

“If these camps were cleaned up, and water was available,” Hopkins said, “these could be marketed.”

According to documents presented at the meeting, the county plans to reestablish the well at Butler Bar quickly so the county could open the camp to RVs and make between $4,900 to $7,000 yearly from state RV fees.

Wells at Sunshine Bar and Laird Lake will be established at a later date, after usage has increased, according to Hopkins.

He estimated yearly costs for the camps at $3,280, but said revenues could exceed $3,300 even before the well at Butler is functional.

Hopkins said, “Our goal would be to break-even for the first year and exceed the break-even point following the first year after a visitor promotion campaign.”

Commissioner Court Boice thanked Hemus for his help on the deal and his years of service to the area. He complimented Hopkins for his hard work and care as well, noting he was impressed with the recent work of the parks department.

Commissioner Sue Gold complimented Hopkins on his presentation of the agreement, saying she had entered the discussion with many questions but the presentation had answered them all.

Other BOC news

The board approved a resolution officially asking the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) to submit a proposal for the Floras Lake land swap. Once those documents are received from OPRD, a majority of the board has indicated it will approve an order making the swap official.

Director of Operations Julie Schmelzer said the lack of flags flying at the county building on Memorial Day was an oversight. The county has arranged to fly the U.S. flag on holidays and has invested in new U.S. flags as well. She characterized the issue on Memorial Day as an omission that has been fixed.

Commissioners directed staff to analyze and propose a manner to collect the TLT tax and to determine if additional staff would need to be hired on full-time or part-time basis. In a May special election, county voters approved a transient lodging tax in the unincorporated areas of Curry County. The ordinances adopted relative to the tax indicates the board, or their designee, is to serve as the tax administrator and collect the tax and administer the ordinance.

Commissioners voted to move the roughly $100,000 raised yearly by the 3 percent tax on marijuana from the general fund into the sheriff’s office. It was noted that although this money is now designated for law enforcement, it does not increase the sheriff’s budget; it simply guarantees a portion of its funding.

Schmelzer agreed to draft a Curry County Housing Emergency Declaration in order to make stakeholders aware of the dire need for housing in the county. Commissioners said the county had insufficient housing, land to develop or tools to enable development. Commission Chairman Chris Paasch encouraged the board to further develop relationships with the cities in the county and to use them to see how the cities and county can work together to alleviate the housing problem.

The board approved the purchase of a new 2018 Superior DT74J Mid Mounted Broom for $63,000 after Roadmaster Richard Christensen reported the current sweeper had cost the county $33,000 in repairs over the last three years, had caused work delays and currently needs $4,000 in repairs.

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