Improvements set at county parks, campsites

In spite of triple-digit weather at times last summer, the Linn County Parks & Recreation Department had a record year, generating almost $3 million in total income, an increase of about $800,000 over the previous year.
Parks Director Brian Carroll credited his staff and the quality and diversity of available camping spots, from rustic tent sites to large RV slips and group camping opportunities.
“The pandemic certainly pushed people in our direction,” he said. “Being outside was important. We thought that might spike and then fall off, but people recognize our parks’ quality, facilities and locations. Once they see what’s here, they want to come back.”
Also key: a friendly and knowledgeable office staff.
“Our people know the campgrounds and can answer most questions quickly with a hometown flavor,” Carroll said. “Callers don’t get sent to a phone tree.”
With 13 full-time staff members, the Parks Department, like most other businesses, struggled to find enough seasonal workers last summer to handle 650 camping sites and two marinas on Foster Reservoir, plus 40 slips at Edgewater Marina and 38 at Sunnyside County Park.
While Waterloo and River Bend campgrounds are open year-round, the others will begin coming online around spring break in late March.
“We were probably down about 25% and that puts pressure on everyone else,” Carroll said. “Fortunately, the folks we did hire were great, they really shined.”
Carroll’s crew has been busy over the winter, working on numerous projects. He said the public will soon start seeing major changes at Lewis Creek Day Use on Foster Reservoir. A master plan is near completion after numerous community meetings and outreach efforts. This will mark the first major upgrade in 50 years to the park on the north shore of Foster Reservoir.
“I am in the process of writing for grants to start implementing the plan,” Carroll said. “It is a major project and will cost several million dollars to complete. Money from the county’s Transient Lodging Tax will play a big role in this, along with matching grants.”
Among the improvements will be new restrooms, potable water systems, better access to water recreation, updated tables and benches and improved walking trails. A new state-of-the art water boom was added to the swimming area last summer.

Green Peter Reservoir
Improvements have begun at Rocky Top Bridge Group Site.
“We have approval from the Corps of Engineers to drill a well and we’re waiting on approval from the Oregon Health Authority,” Carroll said.
The plan is to develop a group camping site to serve eight to 10 RVs, with a total capacity of about 80 people. It will feature eight picnic tables, a large group fire ring and a vault toilet.

Cascadia State Park
The department has managed Cascadia for several years, and Carroll said he believes the state parks system will turn its ownership over to the county this year..
“The state is working on the deed now,” he said.
The park sits about 10 miles east of Sweet Home with 25 primitive campsites, two group tent camping areas and two reservable group picnic areas with kitchen shelters and electricity. Surrounded by old-growth Douglas fir trees, the campground borders the South Santiam River.

THE INTERIOR of a remodeled cabin at Clear Lake Resort. Provided photo

Clear Lake Resort
According to Carroll, Cabin 16 has been remodeled and four new yurts have been installed at Whitcomb Creek.
A cabin that formerly housed staffers has been demolished and will be replaced.
“The previous cabin is tiny,” he said. “We want to be able to keep staff on-site and one way to do that is to provide a better living area. We plan to make more efficient use of space.”
Another goal is to develop a battery system to take pressure off the diesel generators.
“Right now, we shut the power off at 10 p.m.” Carroll said. “With a battery system, people could run lights all night if needed.”

Whitcomb Creek Park
Four new yurts are almost finished, Carroll said, adding that plans are underway to launch a public contest to name them.  Boat-in camping will also be allowed at North Whitcomb Creek.
“There will eventually be six yurts and seven campsites,” he said. “Access will be by boat only.”
The site will include a vault toilet and in time, a potable water well.
This summer, Carroll hopes to build a new restroom for the “C” row at Sunnyside County Park on Foster Reservoir and add a new rest-room near the Waterloo County Park playground by fall.
Carroll said he and his staff share the philosophy that, “We listen to the people. They will tell you what they want. They want to spend time with each other and have a good time.”

– Alex Paul, Linn County Communications Officer