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County OKs Howard Prairie's new management

Jackson County has approved plans for the Mt. Ashland Association to manage and operate the newly renovated restaurant and store at Howard Prairie Resort, an agreement that could result in returns to Jackson County for the next five years.

County officials expressed interest in having a concessionaire run the business, as county officials will operate the campgrounds and marina at the resort. County officials received three bids and selected the Mt. Ashland Association, citing technical experience and management ability. The county's Board of Commissioners approved the agreement in its Wednesday public meeting.

Officials with the association, which operates the Mt. Ashland Ski Area in the winter, have said the deal will allow them to keep more employees on full time.

"I'm excited to see this partnership," Jackson County Roads & Parks Director John Vial said at the meeting. "I think it's going to be real positive."

Under the agreement, the county will receive 2 percent of the restaurant's and store's gross annual revenues up to $300,000 of combined sales the first year, county officials said. If sales go over that, the county will retain 3 percent of those revenues. In the second year, the county will receive 3 percent of up to $300,000 and 4 percent for revenues above that. For the third, fourth, and fifth years, the county will receive 4 percent for up to $400,000, with 5 percent above $400,000.

"We feel it's a fair agreement," Vial said.

Mt. Ashland manager Kim Clark said it also means jobs.

"At this point, it'll bring on at least six full-time (employees) year round," Clark said. "We're really excited about the possibility to work with the county on this."

The new management entity is part of the county's total overhaul at Howard Prairie, about 25 miles outside Ashland on the Dead Indian Plateau. Following a default on the part of previous concessionaires, the county took over the operations of the resort and campgrounds.

County officials said they have made about $15,000 in modifications to the restaurant and store's design layout along with a nearby fish cleaning station. "All the activities for those things happened at the same cash register at the same location, and it was very congested," Vial said.

Inside, they have moved store goods to the side and put in an additional register. There will also be a self-serve coffee bar.

Foods served will include full breakfasts, and standard lunch fares such as burgers and sandwiches, Clark said. A permanent dinner menu is still in the works.

All park facilities except for the restaurant will open Saturday, April 27, officials said.

"We're ready to go. We're looking forward to a great season," Vial said.