Rager nonprofit wants to convert ranger station to recreation center
A recently formed nonprofit committed to saving the Rager Ranger Station is now working with two local agencies to develop a proposal for the facility.
The Historic Rager Ranger Station (HRRS) nonprofit has reached out to Crook County government officials and Crook County Parks and Recreation District with plans to turn the Ochoco National Forest facility into a year-round recreational destination.
"Our goal is for the county to take it over and Parks and Rec will run it," explained HRRS Chair Pete Sharp. "The easiest way for the Forest Service to do it is to transfer it to another organization. Our goal is strictly to organize and put (a proposal) together to save it."
Rager is located about 15 miles northeast of Paulina and once served as the administrative site for the Paulina Ranger District of Ochoco National Forest. It is comprised of 35 buildings and was closed in 2012 after 105 continuous years of operation.
According to Sharp, one set of duplexes was removed and it is believed that the office building will follow next as part of a decommissioning process that HRRS is hoping to stop.
"Our goal is to turn it into a year-round recreation area," Sharp said, noting it would be available for everything from hiking and horseback riding to snowmobiles and four-wheelers. He added that the buildings could be rented for special events throughout the year.
Nonprofit leaders have already met with the Crook County Court and parks district leaders, and Sharp says both groups are open to what HRRS is proposing.
Crook County Judge Seth Crawford said he is open to exploring the idea, provided it doesn't result in any significant liability or expense for the county.
"I am more than willing to have a conversation," he said. "I feel like that's where we're at right now."
Sharp stressed that the proposal will not create a financial burden for the county, and the nonprofit is not seeking any tax dollars to accomplish its goal.
"It will be a money maker for the county and not a cost to the county or parks and rec," he said.
CCPRD Executive Director Duane Garner said that the parks district leaders are intrigued by the idea of operating a recreational facility at Rager.
"We are just in the fact-finding position right now," he said, "just trying to figure out if there is viability, if it makes financial sense."
Ochoco National Forest leaders are currently waiting for HRRS to develop and finalize a proposal for the agency to review. Consequently, the nonprofit is continuing to meet with the county and the parks district in hopes of putting together a written proposal that includes the two entities.
Meanwhile, HRRS is trying to prevent any further removal of any Rager buildings.
"The office would be the first thing to go," Sharp said. "Without it, our whole program is down the tubes."
The nonprofit has therefore sent a letter to Gov. Kate Brown requesting that she put a hold on any future structure removals at the facility.
"My understanding is if she requests that they do no more demolition on it, she has the power to keep them from doing anything," Sharp said. However, since the group is not certain about that authority, they have also sent letters to the U.S. Forest Service with the same request. In addition, HRRS has reached out to Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) for his assistance.
So far, there is no firm timeline on the proposal, but Sharp is hoping to see effort come to fruition as early as next year.
"If we can actually have it in writing and have the county take control within the next year, we will be thrilled," Sharp said.