After 36 years on the drawing board, Medford, Ore., will open a county-owned RV park at the Jackson County Expo on July 1. The park is expected to be fully operational by fall.
RV camping was on the drawing board when the Expo was planned in 1980, County Roads and Parks Director John Vial said at a recent forum. But for primarily economic reasons, the RV component was never developed, leaving the ponds on the property hard to access. Private proposals came and went without progress, the Mail Tribune reports.
“What killed that part almost each and every time,” he said, “was that the property was purchased with Land and Water Conservation funds. … They don’t have strings attached to them, they have cables attached that are this big. It is the most restrictive fund we can ever work with.”
Elements such as a store, exclusive use by park patrons, or large meeting spaces were not permissible by private operators.
“Every time we turned around, we ran into that barrier of what you could do with Land and Water Conservation funds, and having it focused on outdoor recreation only,” Vial said. “But it didn’t make the need go away.”
After one overly optimistic study in 2013, the county took another look. The county staff drew up a plan where the county could turn a profit on the project after 11 years and hired a park designer to engineer the plan. The result was a 92-space park with 50-amp electrical sites, Wi-Fi and shower facilities. A day-use picnic area and trails tied to the Bear Creek Greenway are also part of the project.
The county was able to work as the general contractor and reduce its costs by transferring employees from roads to parks during the construction phase, which helped to keep the project to $5.5 million. Construction began last October.
“Then December hit, the third-wettest winter on record, and it was an absolutely miserable project for several months,” Vial said. “We needed to be done before the fair. Having this park under construction during the fair would have been a nightmare.”