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Enough Love 

A climbing group wants to build a guest house adjacent to Smith Rock, a place some claim is already "loved to death." Meanwhile, a new Master Plan for the park is still in flux.

Hans: "Hey, where'd everybody go?" - Everybody: "Smith Rock."
  • Hans: "Hey, where'd everybody go?"Everybody: "Smith Rock."

Whether for hiking, biking, climbing or just taking photos, there's no doubt that Smith Rock State Park is an appealing stop in Central Oregon. Travel Oregon capitalized on that with its "7 Wonders of Oregon" marketing campaign, including the park as one of the wonders of Oregon.

That campaign is one of the reasons Al Dertinger, a Terrebonne resident, believes the park has gotten so much busier.

click to enlarge screen_shot_2017-12-06_at_3.53.58_pm.png

"There are days where we can't get out of the driveway, or we can't pull the horse trailer out, because of all the cars," he lamented. Since his move to Terrebonne more than 10 years ago, Dertinger has seen first-hand the impact of an increasing number of visitors to the park.

"We are worried about the impact on the lifestyle out here," he explained. "We don't want to lose control of the area."

Dertinger and other residents felt the newly-proposed Smith Rock Master Plan options weren't taking an aggressive enough approach to dealing with the influx of visitors, so they formed a neighbor group, the Terrebonne Neighborhood Alliance.

"We wanted to bring the community together in a unified way, so that everyone [who lives here] has a chance to voice how they feel," Dertinger said.

Right now, Oregon State Parks is in the process of updating the Master Plan for Smith Rock, last updated in 1991. The process includes a public input period, currently ongoing. OSP is offering three scenarios for improving the park.

All three proposed plans would add a smart gate to the entrance, which would update a website when parking is at capacity, and would also add a trail that's compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, from Northern Point along the rim of the canyon. Parallel parking along Crooked River Drive would be removed. All three plans would include the development of a reservation system for the current first-come first-served campground in the park, and the creation of a system to limit the number of private guides in the park at one time.

The first plan option would remove the street parking on Crooked River Drive and replace it with a permanent parking lot near the overflow lot, as well as expanding the campground and parking, and enhancing several trailheads.

The second plan option would move the campground closer to 17th Street and convert the current site to a parking lot. The current overflow lot would be turned into a visitors' center with 30-minute parking, also adding a bridge near the southern edge of the park.

The third plan option would add a multi-modal trail from Terrebonne to the park, and would remove the parking along Wilcox Avenue. It would move the entrance to line up with 17th Street, add a parking lot near the new entrance and move campsite to Northern Point. The current campground would be turned into a day use area with parking. The visitors' center would also be moved to the overflow lot.

Members of TNA don't think any of the options will have a significant effect on the number of visitors to the park. They're also taking issue with another proposal nearby.

Mazama Ranch

TNA is also very concerned about a proposed bed and breakfast and campground that would be run by the Mazamas Foundation, a nonprofit climbing group in Portland. The Mazamas applied for a zoning change for the 2.5-acre lot the Foundation owns near the corner of Crooked River Drive and Smith Rock Loop, hoping to build an eight-person B&B and a campground with a max of 20 campers.

click to enlarge Proposed site of the Mazama Ranch
  • Proposed site of the Mazama Ranch

The lot is currently zoned as a MUA 10, a multiple-use agricultural zone. TNA members feel the development would be a major disruption.

"If the Mazamas are allowed to build a 2.5-acre campground here, what's to stop a KOA campground from buying 10 acres and building another?" Dertinger wonders.

"I was told that I couldn't build a second house on my 11-acre property because of the impact it would have on the area," Dertinger said. "So I don't understand why it's OK for them to build a bed and breakfast and campground. The county isn't consistent with their permitting."

The campground would be much different than the current camping at Smith Rock, says Adam Baylor, stewardship & advocacy manager for the Mazamas. He describes it more like "glamping."

"It's more like a controlled lodging experience that happens to be like camping," he explained. Baylor says he's talked to several neighbors, saying the Mazamas have tried to find a solution to all of the issues neighbors have brought up. They realized noise was a legitimate concern, so the campsites are designed to direct noise toward the park, rather than toward neighbors. There would also be 8-foot berms to shelter the campsites, as well as additional fences and landscaping.

Because of its nonprofit status, Baylor says the long-term impact of having Mazama Ranch there will be beneficial to the community.

"We can keep the costs low, and help push back against the market pressure, where rooms go for $100 or more a night," he envisioned. "We want to figure out how we can benefit the whole community and the area."

click to enlarge screen_shot_2017-12-06_at_3.39.09_pm.png


Setting a New Precedent

Complicating the issue is the fact that there haven't been any other requests for changes to MUA-10 zones, so whatever Deschutes County decides to do could potentially set a precedent for future proposals, explains Luis Elenes, a TNA member.

The MUA-10 code does allow for campgrounds, but residents are concerned about the proposed setback waiver, which would decrease the setbacks at Mazama Ranch, Elenes said.

"What it comes down to is how the hearing officer decides to interpret the zoning codes," Elenes said.

Elenes stressed that this issue is more than just Smith Rock neighbors not liking the idea of a campground in their neighborhood.

"People from Portland have come to associate Terrebonne with Smith Rock," Elenes explained. "But for the people who live here, Terrebonne isn't Smith Rock—it's just one component. Just because you try to do something good for the park doesn't mean it's good for the neighborhood."



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