The upcoming solar eclipse seems to be the hot topic of the year. Nearly every conversation I have with folks these days seems to consist primarily about the frenzy of the coming black out. It reminds me of the hysteria going on back when we ushered in the new millennium and all modern technology was supposedly going to shut down with Y2K. My hope and prayer is that like Y2K, this will also turn out to be a non-event. One thing is for certain: the solar eclipse is going to happen and every indication we have says there are going to be more people rolling into town than we have ever seen here before. I know at the Crook County RV Park, we have been booked solid for over a year with some of these people coming in from different parts of the globe. Anyone who runs a campground or RV Park in the area has the same story. Many private property owners have realized there is potential to hold out a net and capture a few extra bucks flying through town by allowing folks to dry camp on their land, rent an extra room, etc. This is extremely helpful in my opinion, simply because there is not enough infrastructure in place around here to handle the amount of people expected.
Earlier in the year as I was pondering what role CCPRD should play during this natural phenomenon, the question for us really came down to this: how many people are going to show up here without a plan on where to stay? If we have masses of people roll into town with the great idea of just figuring it out when they get here, we will all have a real issue on our hands. Crook County Parks and Recreation District manage virtually every open green space in town and we have a very small staff to keep up with it all. Will the parks just turn into a free-for-all natural camping disaster? There is a big part of me that wishes we could allow people to find a nice spot under a tree and pitch a tent for the weekend and let that be that. I remember stories passed down from my grandparents of it being a common and accepted practice for people to camp in the city parks as they went from place to place on vacation. Personally I would love to do just that– show up with my family, pitch a tent in Ochoco Creek Park, cook some bacon, eggs, and sausage, stay as long as I’m having fun, and then move on. But Prineville unfortunately is not the town of Mayberry. Our jail is not empty and Otis is not our worst offender. After years of operating Ochoco Lake Campground and the Crook County RV Park, I can assure you that by their very nature, campgrounds invite a whole set of issues that require firm rules and at times the strong arm of the law to keep peace and order. Left to the ethics and whims of the general public, these areas would become ugly and uninviting in a hurry. I’m not suggesting that most people are bad; I’m just saying that it only takes one to make a big mess of things.
So the big question is, what is Parks and Rec. going to do? We have decided that it would be better to give people an option of camping in the parks and show them where they can be, rather than do nothing and end up letting the mob rule. There is no guarantee that we can maintain full control of the situation, but we are going into this event with a plan. Our staff will be working in rotating shifts morning and evening. We will have clearly marked dry camping sites out at Crooked River Park and Rimrock Park with as many as 500 sites available. There will be three check-in booths that will be staffed, portable toilets, and fresh water stations. We are charging $30 per tent and $50 for an RV. The amenities will be sparse but better than nothing I suppose. The funds raised through camping fees will be split between CCPRD and the Fairgrounds since we will be using properties owned by each entity. The CCPRD funds will be put towards the Ochoco Creek Park pickleball court renovation project. We will also have staff out and about in the other Prineville parks keeping restrooms clean, garbage picked up, and people directed to the appropriate resources. We will also be selling showers for $5 at the Crook County RV Park, the Prineville Pool, and Ochoco Lake Campground. The city water spigots throughout the parks will be clearly marked and available for people to fill up water bottles. Communication is a little bit of a concern for us. It is possible that the cell towers could get overloaded and cell phone usage go down for periods of time. It has been advised to text rather than talk if you can help it. We will have some radios that we will be using so hopefully we can stay in good communication with key staff and locations. If you are interested in helping to staff a booth or participate in cleaning up the mess afterward, we would sure appreciate it. Shoot me an email or give me a call if you can help: firstname.lastname@example.org; 541-447-1209.
Crook County Parks and Recreation District