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Mount St. Helens Area Campground to Reopen by June

January 27, 2012 by   - () Leave a Comment

Cowlitz County officials in Washington state have scaled back the Harry Gardner Park project near Toutle, but still hope to have the park ready for overnight camping by June.

Commissioners on Tuesday (Jan. 24) awarded a $252,000 construction contract to Olympia-based KBH Construction. Some features were eliminated or scaled back, but officials said the main goal of restoring overnight camping will still be met, the Longview Daily News reported.

The 80-acre park was heavily used prior to the May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens eruption, which buried the campgrounds under more than three feet of mud and debris. Currently the park is only available for daytime use. Community members and county officials have said restoring overnight camping is key to helping draw more visitors to the State Route 504 corridor and the volcano.

When the work is done the park will have 11 RV sites, 12 tent sites and more areas for daylight activities. The RV sites will offer a partial hook up with a dump station.

Initially, the project was estimated at $450,000, said Ron Junker, the county’s parks and facilities director. When the commissioners granted $320,000 last year, officials decided to bid the project knowing they might have to remove some items. Once the bids were in, it was clear a $43,000 pavilion and $40,000 to pave the road to the RV park would have to go, Junker said.

Even with those reductions, though, the funding was still a little short. That’s why commissioners agreed to add another $58,000 to the project on Tuesday. The money used for the park comes from the county’s sales tax proceeds and by state law can only be used on economic development projects.

The county will look for other grants to cover the $27,000 in pavilion material costs. Community members, who cleared the park to prep it for daytime use, have said they’ll build the pavilion as another volunteer project, Junker said.

“Based on their past accomplishments I have no doubt they’ll accomplish this, too,” Commissioner Jim Misner said.

Officials had initially hoped to have the campsites open by May. Instead, work should begin in a few weeks and is expected to be completed by June.

The park is named for Harry Gardner, who donated the original 10 acres in 1964.

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