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Hoosier Camp Owners Oppose County Park

July 23, 2007 by   - () Leave a Comment

A proposed county park with space for camping near Gas City, Ind., could hurt local businesses, campground owners say, according to the Marion Chronicle Tribune.
“It sounds like a great idea if you’re standing from the outside,” said Ryan Richards, owner of Sports Lake Campground near Gas City.
Richards spoke to Grant County commissioners July 17 against the county park idea. He plans to bring more opponents to their meeting this week.
Commissioners may decide Tuesday whether to give the nod to spend $3,700 of county money for the writing of a planning grant that could bring the county $20,000. Paired with a required 10% local match, the funds would be used to design a proposed county park on about 100 acres just north of Gas City.
The future park could have ponds, trails, a picnic area, campground, baseball diamond, pet center, park equipment and a community center.
It’s the campground that worries Richards and others about the plan. He said there already are seven campgrounds within a nine-mile radius of the proposed site.
“It sounds like a good idea until they find out it’s already here,” Richards said after last week’s meeting.
The competition could close at least one locally-owned campground, he said.
Don Bole, owner of Wildwood Acres Campground near Hartford City, said it would not be fair for local campground owners to put thousands of dollars into their businesses and then have their tax dollars spent on a park that could compete with them.
Joyce Martin, owner of Mar-Brook Camp Ground, agreed and said that it’s “absolutely unreal” that the county would consider creating a county campground.
“I don’t like competing against my own tax dollars,” she said. “I think it would really hurt us.”
Commissioner Mark Bardsley said at the July 17 meeting that the campground is just one of several ideas the park could bring to Grant County.
Commissioner Jeremy Diller said he has some reservations about the potential park. He said he would like to know what the needs of the county are for what the park could hold.
Belinda Hussong, director of the Marion Parks and Recreation Department, also said she is unsure what a new county park should have. She said she doesn’t know enough about the idea to make a decision, but added that parks provide numerous benefits to a community.
Without hard facts, Tim Eckerle, director of the Grant County Economic Growth Council, said he doesn’t know enough about the park to make a conclusion on what he thinks it would mean to Grant County’s future.
But if the park were to have a campground, Eckerle said he doesn’t think it’s appropriate for the government to compete with the private sector.
“It’s all about supply and demand,” he said. “If there’s a supply, I don’t see a role for government.”
Mike Scott, Grant County Council president, said it’s important to remember that the park is just an idea so far.
“People are really jumping 55 horses in front of the cart,” he said.
Funding for the park could come from private sponsorship and local organizations, Scott said. Increased taxes also are a possibility. How the park is funded also would be determined through the planning grant.
Before anything is decided on a park, Scott said there would be a steering committee to head up plans, along with public meetings.
The idea for the park came as a way to improve the quality of life for Grant County residents, Scott said.
“Let’s rally behind the idea to try to make it happen instead of closing it down,” Scott said.

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