Wyoming Town Struggles with RV Park Idea

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January 6, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

Aerial view shows Centennial Park (green space), possible site for a new RV park in Alcova, Wyo. The town is at the top of the map. The Alcova dam reservoir separates the town from the proposed site. A school is marked in white adjoining the proposed park site.

In the mid-1930s, Kay Eichorn lived in one of the 24 houses in a pear-shaped subdivision in the town of Alcova, Wyo., located 30 miles southwest of Casper, the Billings (Mont.) Gazette reported

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation built the housing for the workers who built the Alcova dam on the North Platte River that looms over the town, and removed them over the years until the last one was gone, probably in the 1980s, Eichorn said.

The Bureau of Reclamation still owned the land.

But through a series of agreements, it gave Natrona County the responsibility of maintaining the land with trees and a healthy lawn, picnic tables, shelters and a restroom for the town's proud gathering place known as Alcova Centennial Park across the street from the Alcova Elementary.

The county also had the job of maintaining the sprinkler system that kept the grass green and the trees healthy.

By the late 1990s, though, the sprinkler system fell into disrepair.

Trees died.

“Honey locust and spruce died because they weren't watered,” said Jan Burn, president of the Alcova Community Foundation.

Grass died, too.

“It's now weeds and cheat grass,” said Steve Scharosch, foundation treasurer.

And some of the picnic tables were removed.

The plot of Bureau of Reclamation land remains part of the larger system of the Alcova, Pathfinder and Gray Reef reservoirs along the North Platte River originally built for irrigation purposes.

Over time, the reservoirs became popular places for boating, camping, fishing and other recreation, with the county collecting feeds and plowing the money into improvements.

Meanwhile, the master plan that had guided the county's oversight of the reservoirs for the past several decades had grown obsolete, as campers used larger tents and recreational vehicles and brought in toys such as all-terrain vehicles.

In the past year, the county hired consultants, conducted forums and solicited comments to help craft a new master plan.

Final comments to the Natrona County Parks Department are due Friday for the next phase of the master plan's development.

C is for calamity

By this past fall, the parks department had outlined proposed alternatives for the campgrounds and other recreation areas at or near the reservoirs, including Alcova's Centennial Park. Alternatives were rated from “A” for no changes, to “B” for moderate changes, to “C” for major changes.

In the case of Centennial Park, “B” would include improvements for day use, and that's fine by Eichorn. “We wouldn't have a problem with day use if the park rangers and the sheriff's office would patrol it.”

But “C” scares these Alcova residents.

“C” would convert the park into a round-the-clock campsite where people could camp overnight and park their recreational vehicles from April to October, they said.

A campground could diminish or end the school's use of Centennial Park, they said.

“The concern is for the proximity to the school,” Scharosch said. “The school uses it daily for walking and as an outdoor classroom.”

The school also hosts its track meets at the park with the schools from Red Creek, Well Creek and Powder River, he said.

Burn said the attraction of creating an RV park is enhanced because of the availability of electricity.

On the other hand, a full campground would require a waste dump for RVs, and that proposed facility would be across the street from the school.

The county also would need to build a septic system and drill a well for water.

Alcova residents have independent wells and septic systems. The school must haul its own water, Eichorn said.

Scharosch doesn't see how the county could ever recover its investment in a 24-hour campground because of these infrastructure costs.

He, Burn and Eichorn also hope the parks department and consultants listen to their concerns as much as they seem to have listened to businesses, campers and others, they said.

Alcova Centennial Park could provide a respite for tourists as well as townspeople, if the county and the Bureau of Reclamation make the right decisions, Scharosch said.

“I think it can be a win-win situation,” he said.

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