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Concessionaire could land more Forest Service campgrounds

The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest is considering turning over operation of six more of its campgrounds to a concessionaire as a way to keep them open and maintained for the public, but with some fee increases.

If adopted, the proposal would raise to 14 the number of national forest campgrounds operated by Rogue Recreation Inc., which has managed campgrounds in the Union Creek and Fish Lake areas for the Forest Service since 1993.

Forest Service spokeswoman Virginia Gibbons said recreation managers think expanding Rogue Recreation's presence would help ensure the campgrounds stay open during the summers and with a level of service that would keep campers happy.

In recent years, the forest has seen some decommissioning of some of its smaller, more remote campgrounds to curb maintenance costs.

"We continue to have a limited recreation budget," Gibbons said. "This is one of those ways we feel we can be more efficient and keep services as consistent as possible."

The forest is taking public comment on the proposal through Feb. 28.

The three Union Creek-area campgrounds in the proposal are Natural Bridge, River Bridge and Mill Creek. The Fish Lake-area ones in the proposal are Daley Creek, Beaver Dam and Willow Prairie Horse Camp.

The proposal calls for the Willow Prairie overnight camping fee to remain at $10. The other campgrounds have overnight fees ranging from $8 to $10, and the proposal calls for them all to become $12 per night.

Also, Beaver Dam Campground would be converted to a group site and put on the National Reservation system, which Rogue Recreation uses for a portion of the sites in its current suite of campgrounds.

Rogue Recreation currently operates Union Creek, Farewell Bend, Fish Lake, Doe Point, Whiskey Springs, Abbott Creek, North Fork and Fourbit Ford campgrounds.

Nevada-based Acosta Ltd. bought Rogue Recreation last spring, and last summer was its first season of operation. This is the last year of Rogue Recreation's current five-year operational contract, which is up for a five-year renewal.

Gibbons said the Forest Service has been pleased with the new concessionaire's operations.

Campers have voiced positive comments about Rogue Recreation's performance, and its owner, Alisa Costa, has a background in the hospitality industry, Gibbons said.

Also, Costa has sought to improve services and add more features, such as interpretive programs, to the campgrounds and she has been willing to take part in on-the-ground improvements, Gibbons said.

Public comments can be mailed to Mitch Wilkinson, District Ranger, High Cascades Ranger District, 47201 Highway 62, Prospect, OR, 97536. Verbal comments can be made by calling 541-865-2710.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.