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‘Incredible demand’ prompts Deschutes County to seek planning grant for 500-acre RV/campground north of Bend

(Update: Adding comments from Commissioner Phil Chang and Commissioner Patti Adair)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Deschutes County commissioners discussed and agreed Wednesday to consider applying for a state parks grant that would fund design and planning for a proposed campground and RV park north of Bend that also couldbe home to 10 miles of trails, 100 campsites, and large play fields for children. 

Right now, private roads and barbed wire make the county-owned land difficult if not impossible to access.

County commissioners talked about how to pay for planning of the transformation with state grants and matching county money. A preliminary study by contractor ECONorthwest estimated a cost of $21 million to develop the land fully.

Commissioner Phil Chang showed full support at the meeting.

"This pool of funding is possibly our best opportunity to move this concept, this proposal along, because we really do need to do a much more detailed dive into what does it take to develop this as a park and campground," he said later.

The state's Opportunity Grant Program provides Oregon counties funding to acquire, develop and plan campgrounds. About $800,000 of the grant funding comes from recreational vehicle fees

"There is just incredible demand for campsites in Deschutes County, and we basically haven't built barely any new campsites or campgrounds in Deschutes County in the last 40 years," Chang said.

But there are challenges in getting state approval for any large projects outside urban growth boundaries.

The county also would have to match 50% of the state parks grant.

Commissioner Patti Adair expressed a desire to also make it possible for an adjacent 57-acre property owner to develop a site for 330 single-wide manufactured homes, another effort to add desperately needed affordable housing.

"It really seems like in order to be successful with this project, we really need to work on the legislators to add the UGB on the north end to Bend, in order to bring all this property in," she said.

Commissioner Tony DeBone initially said he preferred to focus on the rezoning needs, but later supported seeking the grant for planning the 500-acre site.

Last fall, the board received a camping feasibility study from contractor ECONorthwest that studied three sites, another being off Drafter Road in La Pine and the third at Crooked River Ranch.

Chang said during the commission discussion that follow-up info from the consultants after the study discussed the ability to craft a park master plan and laid out a “very clear path to proceed with this with current zoning – it’s a non-issue.” After many conversations on the Fort Thompson site in recent months,

Chang said it’s also possible the county could partner with the Bend Park and Rec District for funding or development, and he noted that 500 acres is larger than Tumalo State Park, so there’s “a lot of room for a campground, trails, play fields of various kinds.” Once a concept is fleshed out, it could be in a park district master plan, down the road in a couple of years.

As for the Drafter Road site, Chang said the current interest appears to be to put out a request for proposals “to see if someone wants to develop it,” while the Fort Thompson Lane plan is “still on our plate, on our radar screen.”

DeBone said he’d like to learn more but, “I’m supportive of moving something forward.”

Chang said he’s been trying to address potential “fatal flaws” with the campground proposal north of Bend. For example, he had an “in-depth discussion” with the Swalley Irrigation District board about how the campground/trails project could dovetail with piping a section of canal on the site, and developing hydropower opportunities.

The goal would be to “be able to cross that canal right away and give people on bikes, foot and horses access to a whole bunch more area. … There are a lot of other real exciting discussions to be had.”

Acknowledging they are “very early in the process,” Chang said, “If we secured funding for a master plan or design process, we could engage all those people” on a more formal basis.

Adair again said she hopes to see a rezoning to expand the UGB for the 57-acre mobile home park project.

In the last round of the state grant funding in 2021, Strategic Initiatives Manager Jen Patterson said the grants ranged from $57,000 to $500,000, and the total for all grants next year is expected to be $1 million. “There didn’t appear to be limitation on how much we can apply for,” she said.

Article Topic Follows: Deschutes County

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Isabella Warren

Isabella Warren is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Isabellahere.

Author Profile Photo

Isabella Warren

Isabella Warren is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Isabellahere.


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