Record income for Linn County parks

Alex Paul

A hot, dry summer sent recreationists to East Linn county parks this summer, director Brian Carroll said last week.

Carroll said parks income exceeded $403,000, a new record.

“I think our income was about $232,000 when I came here six years ago,” Carroll said. “People really enjoyed themselves this year. We don’t track visitors but we can get a pretty accurate picture of things through the revenue stream each month.”

For East Linn residents, good news is that a well test at new River Bend park at Cascadia, was very positive.

“The well is 201 feet deep but was took the water level from 51 to 64 feet in four hours and it recovered in two minutes. That’s a great sign,” Carroll said.

The new campground will encompass 70 acres and eventually include 90 sites and two shelters. Construction is expected to begin early next year.

“This is going to be a regional park,” Carroll said. “We believe it will be one of our cornerstone facilities.”

When River Bend is completed, Linn County Parks will have 455 camping sites and be one of the larger camping providers in the state.

“Jackson county has 600 sites,” Carroll said.

On the down side, Carroll said the February 2001 windstorm continues to take its toll on the parks.

“We are seeing some trees continue to die,” Carroll said. “At Roaring River and Waterloo parks, beetles are infesting dead trees. We believe the process started when the storm hit.”

The parks system has received some $500,000 in grants this year from the State Marine Board and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Those funds are being used at River Bend, Gedney Creek and Waterloo.

“The goal is to continue to improve facilities for folks,” Carroll said. “Most of the county parks system was built in the 1970s, so it’s time for some updating.”

He pointed to Sunnyside Park near Sweet Home as the center of the parks system with more than 160 sites.

“At Sunnyside, building roofs are disintegrating,” Carroll said. “They will have to be replaced.”

The John Neal park at Lyons is the oldest in the Linn county system, with 40 sites and was built in the 1960s.

Waterloo campground continues to be very popular and generates slightly more revenue per unit than Sunnyside, Carroll said.

“Sunnyside and Waterloo campgrounds account for about 80-90 percent of the county parks income,” Carroll said.

Each generates more than $1,000 per camping site per season. Sunnyside has 165 sites, Waterloo has 120, John Neal has 40 and Whitcomb Creek has 39.

Carroll said that as the parks system matures, his next goal is to develop more local partnerships with private entities and nearby communities.

“As Sweet Home focuses more on becoming a destination and tourist area, we hope to be able to work even more with the Oregon Jamboree by providing facilities to help out,” Carroll said.

Although usership continues to escalate, Carroll said the fulltime field staff remains at seven, down from nine in the 1980s.

“When River Bend comes on line we may have to increase staffing but we may be able to hold steady by shifting personnel, using more volunteers and being more innovative,” Carroll said. “We have been using more seasonal help but the public really appreciates quality. The skills of the seasonal people usually aren’t up to the level of full-time staff.”