Campers Want More Amenities at Wyoming Parks

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August 27, 2010 by   - () Leave a Comment

Campers at the three reservoirs in Wyoming's Natrona County want longer and wider boat ramps, fish cleaning stations, hazards removed from the water, more spaces for bigger recreational vehicles and more spaces for primitive camping, according to informal surveys they completed this summer, The Billings Gazette reported.

But those working on the Alcova-Gray Reef-Pathfinder master plan want more than the 49 surveys they’ve received since Memorial Day, they told about 60 people who attended an open house about the plan at the University of Wyoming Agricultural Extension office Wednesday.

“I’m surprised at how few people filled out the surveys,” said Graham Billingsley, a Boulder, Colo.-based consultant.

“It’s an opinion, not a scientific survey,” Billingsley said.

But those surveys available at campsites at the reservoirs gave fairly consistent responses that will help in crafting the next master plan for the reservoirs along the North Platte River, Billingsley, other consultants and county officials said.

Alcova Dam and Powerplant, features of the Kendrick Project, are on the North Platte River about 30 miles from Casper, Wyo. The Alcova Reservoir covers 2,470 surface acres. Facilities include six campgrounds, eight boat ramps, interpretive trail and marina concession.

Most meeting participants were cabin owners and residents of the trailer park at Alcova, and only a few had filled out the surveys, said Natrona County Parks Assistant Manager Margaret Teevens.

Wednesday was to be the last day for considering suggestions, but the paltry response prompted the consultants to post the survey on the master plan website and extend the comment period.

The consultants will begin drafting alternatives for recreational opportunities, and Natrona County will send the proposals to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for approval by December 2011.

The bureau’s role is critical.

It built and owns the Pathfinder, Alcova and Gray Reef reservoirs for irrigation purposes.

Over time, they became popular places for boating, camping, fishing and other recreation.

The bureau gave Natrona County the responsibility to police and maintain the land. The county collects user fees and rents from campers, owners of trailers and cabins at Alcova, owners of the marinas at Alcova and Pathfinder, and the boat and ski clubs.

The county plows that revenue into improvements such as the camping and picnic sites, restrooms, parking lots and other infrastructure, including those that will come out of the recommendations of the eventual master plan.

The county also has assigned about $223,000 of those revenues, coupled with a $68,000 grant from the Bureau of Reclamation, to pay the consultants for their work on the three-year project for the master plan, Teevens said.

The last master plans were completed in the early 1980s when most campers used tents or small trailers.

Some still rough it, but the advent of large recreational vehicles, larger boats and toys such as all-terrain vehicles have made many campsites obsolete.

But improvements will cost money, and the fees collected now may not be enough.

So the survey asked how much groups of campers would be willing to pay to use the sites for one day.

Nearly half the respondents said they would be willing to pay $3, which is $3 more than they pay now.

Many also would be willing to pay a little more than the current $7 fee for overnight camping.

Many also said they would pay $25 for full hook-up RV sites, up $10.

Consultant Cliff Lind of Denver showed possible configurations for recreational vehicle sites and more traditional tent sites that are removed from roads.

“There are more users than there are clearly defined camp sites,” Lind said.

The proposals given to the Bureau of Recreation also will suggest time frames to make the improvements, said consultant Mike Gasper of Denver.

Some campsites may be able to wait for five years, while other need immediate improvements, Gasper said.

Teevens urged the public to take advantage of the survey.

People may want trails, different kinds of places to camp and other amenities, she said.

But the consultants, county and agencies won’t know if people don’t participate and others make undesirable proposals, Teevens said.

“If people want a paved paradise, that’s what we’ll end up with,” she said.

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