Oregon Town Turning Wayside Stop into Primitive Campground
Once a wayside for freeway drivers, Ben Hur Lampman Park in Gold Hill, Ore., hasn't been operated by the state for years, but it still commands a steady flow of users for fishing, dog walking and the occasional Frisbee toss.
With the state set to transfer ownership of the park to the city Feb. 1, Rob Lowe, city parks and recreation manager has spent much of the past year working on paperwork to transfer the property and creating plans for the city's first campground, the Medford Mail Tribune reported.
"It's a nice little chunk of property with wonderful views, if blackberries were cut back a bit. The vision has slowly developed for it to become part of the city parks system," said Lowe.
Nearby, a small crew works to unearth an old well once installed by the state that is still in good condition. The site once provided a place for residents to get clean drinking water, before establishment of the city's municipal supply around 1980.
If Lowe's plans come to fruition, the spot will provide 10 primitive campsites with tables, trash receptacles and fire pits. A camp host would collect fees and keep maintenance under control.
"We're talking like tent camping, Volkswagen buses or whatnot. Not the big RVs," Lowe said. "We won't have hookups and we don't want to compete with any of our private businesses."
Lowe, a longtime resident and former council member, started thinking about turning the area into a campground long ago.
"Years ago, myself and councilor (Donna) Silva got to talking about it and, being long-time Gold Hill residents, we both remember back … when residents used to go over to Ben Hur Lampman to fill up jugs of drinking water," he said.
Silva said she is excited to see the city creating a public space on land already in use by the town for years.
"We had tried to do this years ago but it never really got this far, so I'm really glad it's finally happening," Silva said.
"Fishermen have always fished over there, and we used to go there when we were kids. That was one of the first places you could ride your bike by yourself."
Lowe said uses will vary depending on the season, but fishermen and kayakers especially will appreciate the river access and clean water supply.
"We feel like there's probably a real demand for something inexpensive. A place where kayakers can come and tent-camp for a week and float the river all day," he said.
"Or maybe a place where some poor shmuck, who's just trying to get to Seattle one night, realizes his eyes are closing and doesn't want to spend $75 on a motel."
Silva credited Lowe's hard work for making the campground become a reality.
"I'm so thankful that Rob is giving so much to this. He was really a great addition to our Parks and Recreation Department, and I'm really thankful for him giving this the attention it needs and making this happen," she said.
Between now and summer, Lowe will finish work on a two-year business plan and finalize cost estimates for setting up the site. With tables, fire pits, trash receptacles and work to the well, he figures the city will invest just under $5,000.
"We just want a little place people can come to camp," he said.
"It's very possible we'll have things up and running, to some degree, by this summer."