Highlighting Native American culture
Approximately three years ago, Crook County Parks and Recreation began thinking about what kind of expansion and projects could be done at Ochoco Lake Campground.
Approximately 20 years ago, Crook County entered into an agreement with the State of Oregon to manage the campground. Crook County Parks and Recreation District managed the campground for Crook County.
"Fast forward 20 years later. That lease came due and instead of just renewing it, the state ended up deeding the property to Crook County," explained Duane Garner, executive director for Crook County Parks and Recreation District (CCPRD). "The county actually owns the land, and Crook County Parks and Recreations District manages and maintains and operates it."
"It's a peninsula, in essence. It's never going to be larger than it is," Garner added. "There is some expansion room, as far as campsites are concerned, but not much in the way of parking or significant growth."
Garner's initial thought process was how to make Ochoco Lake something special and memorable that could focus on the experience that people have.
"Because size isn't going to be something we are going to be able to do anything about," he said. "It's only going to be this big."
In his past, Garner has helped to build log cabins and resort cabins. He indicated that in their research, they have found that these, as well as tipis (also spelled teepees), have been very successful in many state and county parks.
"They are rented all the time, and are very popular," he said.
Initially, CCPRD staff looked into some "Hobbit houses" which involved round doors. With more research, this was not feasible due to stumbling blocks in permitting. Garner and his crew began to looking into tipis and found a manufacturer in Tumalo. Nomadic Tipi Makers began their business in 1970, and the business is born out of interest and respect for the Native American cultures of the Great Plains and the people who had created the tipi shelters.
"We went out and visited their site where they build these, and I was so impressed with them," elaborated Garner.
He said their teepees are as authentic as possible to Native American culture, and they also provide the artwork on them. Garner also did some research on KOA campgrounds that have used various tipis, and have found them to be as much of a draw, if not more, than the cabins.
"They have more of a draw, just because they are unique and interesting and it's very much about the experience of it all," said Garner.
Crook County Parks and Recreation District began saving up profits from the Ochoco Lake Campground for several years. Garner indicated that they have a relatively small tax base to receive monies from campgrounds.
They only manage campgrounds for Ochoco Lake, Crook County RV Park and Haystack Reservoir. They have saved enough to put up five tipis just off the east side of the lake. Currently, Nomadic Tipi Makers has completed the construction of four of the tipis, and each one is painted with beautiful Native American-inspired artwork.
Garner said that although the current structures are relatively close together, they can be rented either individually or as a group.
"I can see groups of people renting all of them and having a really nice, fun experience together," said Garner.
Currently, CCPRD staff are working on some interpretive signage for the tipi site. They are working on developing some content for each tipi to represent something specific of an event, historical figure or Native American history.
"Ochoco Lake does have some interesting Native American background right here in this location," indicated Garner.
Even though the tipis are fire and water resistant, Garner also pointed out that fires are not allowed in the tipis, but there is a fire pit outside in close proximity to the structures. The tipis will only be available during the campground season.
"This is a seasonal campground, so our primary season is Memorial Day to Labor Day," he added.
Garner said that their completion date for the project is the spring season of 2020.
Ochoco Lake Campground is located seven miles East of Prineville: 11700 NE Ochoco Highway
Ochoco Lake Campground is owned by Crook County and operated by CCPRD
Ochoco Campground season is April 1 through Oct. 31
The tipi rates are to be decided, and are scheduled to ready for rental April 1, 2020
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