LOOKINGGLASS — Residents surrounding a former landfill site in Lookingglass are rallying against county plans to turn the 205-acre plot into an ATV park and campground.
The Douglas County Land Department has applied for a conditional use permit to turn the county-owned forestland on the east side of Colonial Road, north from its intersection with Lookingglass Road, into an off-highway vehicle park. Plans include a camping site and two trails. The county is still ironing out some of details, including where it will get the money needed to develop it.
County commissioners have been discussing the potential OHV park since last fall, Planning Director Keith Cubic said. After holding a pre-application conference earlier this year, the department applied for the permit and sent notifications to surrounding residents on March 10. Most residents say they were unaware of the plans until that day. They were given two weeks to submit written comments to the Planning Department.
As for funding, Cubic said the county will solicit for grants and contributions for development and maintenance. There is no detailed budget as of yet, Cubic said.
Steve Denney’s home overlooks the sloping hill of pine trees, some of which have been harvested for timber. A short walk brings him to the top of a hill overlooking the old landfill site. He’s concerned about the noise and pollution that an OHV park could bring to his currently peaceful home in the country. He has lived there for 27 years.
“It’s not very far from our house,” Denney said. “You could imagine all the noise that’s going to go with all of these different RV rigs.”
The proposed plans call for a 250-foot buffer zone where there will not be any trails or active use.
The application calls for four different types of off-highway vehicles: ATVs and quads, 4X4s and Jeeps, motorcycles, and side-by-sides. It says the site is intended to be an OHV riding area and not a “destination OHV site.”
“The design difference is based off the number of miles of trail,” the application reads.
Resident Ted Jones closed on a house that abuts the property in December last year. Although he considers himself an ATV enthusiast and owns one himself, he is against the county plans.
“Had I known anything of this, I would not have purchased it,” Jones said.
He added that the site is too small to be used by large off-highway vehicles.
“Most parks that size will not put full-size vehicles with ATVs in them because, well, it’s just suicide,” Jones said. “You wouldn’t turn your kids loose in a park like that.”
After the written comment deadline of March 24, the Planning Department will review comments and evaluate the application. The department could then make a decision, which is appealable by the county planning commission and subsequently the Board of County Commissioners.
Oregon land-use laws prohibit decision-makers to be involved in the process, so residents have been barred from trying to sway commissioners for or against the OHV plans. A handful of residents tried to speak at a commissioner meeting on Wednesday, but they were shut down.
Commissioner Tim Freeman has already spoken to residents about the plans in the past, and the commissioners have been discussing the OHV park since last fall. Freeman did not return a request for comment.
There have not been any formal public meetings held on the plans so far, Denney said. County staff considered holding a meeting a week before comments were due, but that idea fell through.
“It may be something we can arrange after we receive all the comments on the land use application and begin our issue identification and analysis of the application,” Cubic said.
The county closed and capped off the landfill in the 1980s. Cubic said the trailheads and campsite will avoid former landfill areas.
The site has a history of landslides. The county permanently closed the transfer site in 1994 “due to many landslides that have developed in the area.” The application does not specify how it will mitigate the issue.
Jones, Denney and resident Jim Gell said they would prefer to have the site be used for timber harvests. That way, loggers are in-and-out of the site within a limited period of time. The OHV site will be open all year long during daylight hours.
“It seems like we’re bearing the brunt of this on our back,” Denney said. “People say not in my backyard, but I didn’t say anything about the logging. That’s all fine well and good, but this is a little much.”