Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



County's URD plan targets bringing a large hotel facility to the rim above Lake Billy Chinook, expanding recreation, housing and industrial development

Jefferson County government has ridden pretty low the past several years, especially after its efforts at allowing resorts in the Camp Sherman area was crushed by the Legislature (in somewhat nefarious means) back in the 2000s. Then there was that pesky Recession to deal with.

Through it all, instead of flashy projects, the county has focused on maintaining a sturdy budget. They did it well, well enough to loan other local entities money for their needs, flashy or otherwise.

But enough with lying low, apparently. For months, the county has been working on plans that officials hope will lead to a fine hotel on the eastern ridge above Lake Billy Chinook — a signature facility for central Jefferson County.

Our local government isn't getting into the hotel industry, but rather laying out the welcome mat for a hotelier by offering subsidies and other incentives for someone to build.

The first entity that needs to sign on to the plan is Oregon State Parks. According to county leadership, State Parks is very open to the concept. Heck, State Parks allowed bungee jumping off the Gorge bridge for a part of the take. A very nice hotel in their midst shouldn't be a problem.

The county will be busy the next several weeks selling other taxing entities and land management agencies on the plan, convincing them that it will be an investment to have some of their tax dollars shifted to the project.

It's beyond early on the public process for the county's project, but give them kudos. This vision is bold, it's smart, it's imaginative — not to mention a super interesting discussion to have.

And the project with the URDs is not only the hotel piece. More solar farms? Sure. More rural housing? Sure. Expanded recreation in the state park-Round Butte area? Sure. Move the fairgrounds to near the planned hotel site? Well, that might take some convincing ... but there's plenty of time for that debate.

The fine hotel complex on the rim at the Cove hosting travelers and lake enthusiasts, a facility complete with a large convention area — it would change the nature of the bucolic road along the viewpoints, the surrounding farmland and Round Butte area housing. But it would also bring a nice economic boost and lead to expanded recreation options.

The project is a lot to digest. I'd throw this out to those whose immediate thoughts on it might be negative. About 70 years ago, the thought of a dam on those beautiful rivers was a stretch for some, fought vigorously by others. Then a second dam was built. Few locals fully conceived, I bet, what the Cove State Park would become, how Central Oregon's popularity would evolve, the massive traffic on U.S. Highway 97 and the travel budgets people seem to pack around.

So, what's next in this evolution?

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