County parks could get boost in funding


SB 1514 would change the distribution of RV licensing fees between state and county parks from 65/35 to 55/45

Currently, Crook County Parks and Recreation District and other county park entities receive about 35 percent of the recreational vehicle license fees collected in Oregon.

Oregon Parks and Recreation Department gets the remaining 65 percent, despite the fact that they operate only 51 percent of campsites statewide compared to 49 percent run by the counties.

County park districts want a more equitable share given the comparable number of facilities they operate.

"It is really pretty close to half and half as far as the number of facilities," said Crook County Parks Supervisor Duane Garner.

Nevertheless, the gap could grow to a 70/30 split by July 2015 unless a new bill introduced in the Oregon Senate passes and closes the gap to 60/40 this year and 55/45 in 2015.

Senate Bill 1514 was spearheaded by the Oregon Parks Association and the Association of Oregon Counties as a way to address an overwhelming backlog of deferred maintenance in county parks statewide.

"Counties have evolved operations to become more innovative and resourceful in managing their park systems to ensure the sustainable operations of our local parks," said OPA board member Steve Lambert, "but we still need help to eliminate the accumulated deferred maintenance issues."

In Crook County, the RV licensing fees help pay for the facilities at Crook County RV Park and Ochoco Lake Park. Garner believes both locations would greatly benefit from the approximately $24,000 per year increase SB 1514 would provide.

Crook County RV Park is currently undergoing some major infrastructure renovations, which is paid for primarily by grant funding. While that is the case, the project will not leave much in the coffers afterward.

"We're using basically every dime we have and this grant to get some basic things in place," Garner said. "We're only doing about half of what really needs to be done. The increase of annual funding, down there in particular, will just help keep that park maintained and get it back into a sustainable condition."

Meanwhile, Ochoco Lake Park, which is actually owned by the state, but leased by Crook County Parks and Recreation, would benefit from the bump in funds as well.

"There are still sites up there that are gravel," Garner said. "Just to be able to help keep the roads up and just basic maintenance of the day-use area, from restrooms to the campsites, water and pumps and basic infrastructure -- it will sure help the bottom line."

When fully implemented, SB 1514 would provide an additional $3.2 million to counties statewide per biennium.

"We are extremely grateful to OPRD for their willingness to assist counties for the benefit of all Oregon's outdoor enthusiasts," said AOC member and Tillamook County Commissioner Mark Labhart.