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Fire Regs Delay Washington Park’s Reopening

February 17, 2012 by   - () Leave a Comment

Eruption of Mount St. Helens, May 18, 1980. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Federal fire regulations will stall RV camping at the restored Harry Gardner Park in southwest Washington for at least a year.

The Toutle-area park’s resurrection, first begun by volunteers, will be completed by the county this summer. Plans call for 11 RV sites and 12 tent camping sites as well access, the Longview Daily News reported.

While reviewing permits, though, county officials learned that federal fire codes require a certain amount of water available to allow RV camping, said Ron Junker, the county’s parks and recreation director. The required “fire flow” is 500 gallons a minute for 30 minutes.

The only way to accomplish that at the remote Toutle site is to install a large water tank and pump hydrant — estimated at $35,000.

The project already had to be scaled back when bids came in higher than expected last month, so there’s no extra money available for the water system this year, Junker said.

All of the camping sites will be built this year, but the RV sites will only able to be used for tent camping until the water tank is installed.

The county will seek new grants to cover the cost of the water tank and ideally will be able to open to the park to RVers next summer, Junker said.

The 80-acre park was heavily used before 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.

The county dedicated $320,000 for the park work last year. When bids came in, a $43,000 pavilion and $40,000 to pave an access road had to be eliminated. Officials hope to add those amenities later if they can find more grant money.

Work should be complete in June.

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

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