By Wayne Allen
State Senator Joe Uecker and his staff have conducted a survey of local campground owners on the potential impact of the proposed construction of a campground at Earl Thomas Conley Park in West Portsmouth by the Scioto County Commissioners.
In December of 2013 the commissioners submitted a $326,000 capital request to the state of Ohio. The application was made seeking funding to construct a campground in Earl Thomas Conley Park in West Portsmouth. According the application submitted to the state by the commissioners, “The project will develop county property into a campground that will hold 60 campsites. The project will create three jobs and create tremendous tourism opportunities in Scioto County.” The estimated project cost is $676,472, with $326,472 of the necessary funding being requested from the state.
The application states the remainder of the funding is anticipated to come from the Appalachian Regional Commission $250,000 with $100,000 being provided by the county.
On the application, the county states the campground will be supported through a fee, that will allow the county to operate the campsite and create ongoing operational funds.
When the state’s capital budget was approved, the project was approved for $250,000 in funding.
Earlier this month, Scioto County Grants Administrator Michelle Throckmorton said total project cost would be about $600,000, with $250,000 coming from the state, $250,000 being applied for through the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and $100,000 coming from the county. Throckmorton said once installed the campgrounds will have about 40 camp sites.”
Uecker said the commissioners will have to stick to the parameters of the application.
“The commissioners have to remember they must stick to the scope of what the application (for capital funds) said they were going to do,” Uecker said. “That’s where my concern is, you cannot present a project for funding for state participation and then do whatever you want.”
When asked about the results of the survey Uecker said, “Our office spoke to several of the various other campgrounds in the area.”
He said there was an estimated nine or 10 campgrounds surveyed by his office.
“The consensus (from the survey) was they (campground owners) did not understand why the commissioners were attempting to compete with private enterprise. That is not an issue I can take, it’s an issue between the people and their commissioners,” Uecker said. “They (campground owners) did for the most part agree that this project did offer something the others could not, (Ohio) river access. To what extent that (river access) makes it a viable project I don’t know. You have to ask yourself, where’s the market study that shows this is a viable project.”
Mike Crabtree, chairman of the Scioto County Commissioners said, “It would be foolish not to do something, we’ve got all of that space down there. It’s (site for the campground) sitting idle doing nothing when it could be serving the public and make some money for the county.”
Uecker said survey participants indicated they did not like the project.
“However would it compete against them directly, nobody was really standing on the soapbox saying that it’s going to put them out of business,” Uecker said.
Wayne Allen can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228 or on Twitter @WayneallenPDT