This will be Hoodoo Recreation’s last summer of managing campgrounds in the Deschutes National Forest for at least the next five years.
Starting in 2019, a California firm will hold the special use permit that has been Hoodoo’s for the past decade. The U.S. Forest Service recently awarded the campground concession to CLM Services Corp., operating locally as Deschutes Recreation. The five-year permit, which can be extended for five more years, will begin in January, the Forest Service said in May.
“For reasons we don’t know, they decided to go a different direction,” said Hoodoo General Manager Kaly Harward. Hoodoo has held the permit to operate 80 campgrounds forestwide since 2009, and the company operated campgrounds in the Sisters Ranger District for a decade prior, he said.
With Hoodoo’s permit expiring at the end of this year, the Forest Service issued a prospectus in 2017 for the camping concession. Five companies responded, and their proposals were evaluated by a team separate from the local Deschutes National Forest staff, spokeswoman Jean Nelson-Dean said. The Forest Service will not disclose the names of the other bidders or the details of their proposals, she said.
One major change under the next five-year permit: The Forest Service itself will manage nine campgrounds in Newberry National Volcanic Monument, the agency announced.
Visitors have said they want to see a bigger Forest Service presence there, Nelson-Dean said. “We want to provide really quality service in those areas, and we do a lot of interpretive programs in those areas,” she said.
Ninety-five percent of the fees the Forest Service collects at the Newberry campgrounds will be reinvested in the national monument, Nelson-Dean said. The Forest Service estimated that sites not included in the 2017 prospectus generated $370,643 in revenue in 2015.
The prospectus also left out two campgrounds in the Sisters Ranger District near Lake Billy Chinook, which could be operated by Oregon State Parks under a cooperative agreement, Nelson-Dean said.
The remaining 69 campgrounds generated an estimated $1.3 million in 2015, according to the prospectus.
CLM Director of Operations Shia Geminder said its operation is similar to other Forest Service concessionaires. “We think we manage them a little more efficiently and provide better customer service,” Geminder said. “We like to have direct contact with the campers. There’s a host there. We clean the restrooms three times a day during peak season.”
CLM’s proposal calls for two $1 increases to campground fees, one in 2019 and one in 2021, Geminder said. Campground fees currently range from $14 to $20 per night, he said. The increases are mainly to cover the scheduled increases to Oregon’s minimum wage, he said.
CLM also proposed to add more yurt camping, up to three sites a year, President Eric Mart said. It will be up to the Forest Service to decide where to add yurts, he said. CLM may make other capital improvements, which will be deducted from the annual fee the company pays the government, he said.
“A lot of this is dependent on the Forest Service,” Mart said. “It’s their forest. We just work here.”
CLM has concessions in California, Nevada and Colorado and recently expanded its presence in the Northwest. In Oregon, the company has managed the Mount Hood National Forest campgrounds for the past eight years. It’s in its first year of operating the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest campgrounds, which were also previously managed by Hoodoo, Geminder said.
Hoodoo has about 50 employees at the Deschutes campgrounds and will probably add 10 more for the peak season, said Mark Hawes, human resources manager.
“Our goal is to be able to retain as many of our employees as we can,” Harward said. Hoodoo Recreation is part of a group of companies, which may provide employment opportunities, he said.
The company owns several RV parks in Oregon, including Camp Sherman RV Park, so some campground supervisors will transition to working at those parks, Hawes said.
In addition to Hoodoo Ski Area, the company owns Crescent Lake Resort, which served as a base for operating the Forest Services campgrounds, Harward said. “We’ll have to evaluate the resort and the ski area and see what this means,” he said.
This summer, campers will not notice any difference in service from Hoodoo Recreation, he said. “Cleanliness and care will be at the same level,” he said.
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