Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneA young angler fishes for trout at Union Creek during the summer of 2020.
Some of the most popular campgrounds in the High Cascades are shuttered as federal appeals process drags on
UNION CREEK — Several of the most popular campgrounds in Jackson County could be shuttered until August or longer while the Forest Service grapples with who will run the properties this summer and beyond.
The snag will either ruin or alter the camping plans for thousands of people already lined up to spend their weekends under the Douglas firs at seven Forest Service camping hotspots such as Union Creek, Farewell Bend and Doe Point campgrounds.
Other affected camps are Whiskey Springs, North Fork, Fourbit Ford, Abbott Creek and Fish Lake. They are all clustered around Union Creek off Highway 62 in northern Jackson County or Fish Lake off Highway 140 in eastern Jackson County.
Jackson County was the winning bid in December for the contract to run these campgrounds for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, which for decades has hired outside businesses to run its most popular campgrounds.
But the former concessionaire and unsuccessful bidder, Rogue Recreation, has filed an appeal, claiming the bid process was not fair, Forest Service records show.
The appeal is working its way through federal channels, with a decision scheduled by mid July, records show.
That means camping season at those prime sites won’t begin on Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer for many people, according to the Forest Service.
“It is possible that this closure could extend out to July 30,” forest recreation planner Lance Sargent wrote in a memo this week.
Rogue Recreation owner Alisa Acosta said anywhere from 14,000 to 17,000 people camp in these camps annually, with many staying up late to secure reservations when they become open six months in advance.
Not only are those reservations now in doubt, future reservations at these campgrounds also are on hold.
“The public shouldn’t suffer while we figure this out,” Acosta said. “The camps should be opened to the public. They’re owned by the public.”
Acosta, whose Nevada-based company bought Rogue Recreation in 2014 and has run the local campgrounds ever since, said she was not asked to run the campgrounds while the appeals process shakes itself out.
Forest Service officials declined to discuss the dispute.
“We’re doing everything we can to open our campgrounds as quickly and safely as possible,” forest spokeswoman Virginia Gibbons said.
Jackson County Roads and Parks Manager Steve Lambert declined comment, deferring to the Forest Service.
Any of the thousands of would-be campers with reservations through July can wait to see whether the campgrounds open before their planned visit, Gibbons said.
Those who want to cancel ahead of time, or who eventually see their reservations go unfulfilled, can get full refunds, Gibbons said.
For information and cancellations, call 1-541-865-2735.
Forest officials are recommending that would-be campers look outside of the High Cascades Ranger District for camping options.
The closures do not involve resorts operating on Forest Service land such as Union Creek, Fish Lake and Lake of the Woods. It also does not affect day-use areas.
Union Creek and Farewell Bend campgrounds collectively sport 135 campsites. The smallest of the group is the North Fork Campground with three campsites and six tent sites.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.