News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Linn County parks has record-setting year; improvements on the way

Linn County Communications Officer

By Alex Paul
Linn County Communications Officer

In spite of triple-digit weather at times last summer, Linn County Parks & Recreation has had a record year, generating almost $3 million in total income, up about $800,000 over the previous year.

Parks Director Brian Carroll credits his staff and the quality and diversity of the camping spots available – from rustic tent sites to large RV slips and group camping opportunities, there is something for every budget and taste. 

“The pandemic certainly pushed people in our direction,” Carroll said. “Being outside was important. We thought that might spike and then fall off, but people recognize our parks quality, facilities and locations. Once they see what’s here, they want to come back.”

Carroll said a friendly and knowledge office staff is also a key.

“Our people know the campgrounds and can answer most questions quickly with a hometown flavor,” Carroll said. “Callers don’t get sent to a phone tree.”

The Parks Department has 13 full-time staff members and like most other businesses, struggled to find enough seasonal workers last summer. They take care of 650 total camping sites and two marinas on Foster Reservoir including 40 slips at Edgewater Marina and 38 slips at Sunnyside County Park.

Waterloo and River Bend campgrounds are open year-round, all other campgrounds will begin coming on-line around spring break in late March, Carroll said.

“We were probably down about 25 percent and that puts pressure on everyone else,” Carroll said. “Fortunately, the folks we did hire were great, they really shined.”

Carroll said his crew has been busy over the winter, working on numerous projects.

He said the public will soon start seeing major changes at Lewis Creek Day Use on Foster Reservoir. A Master Plan is being completed after many community meetings and outreach efforts.

This will mark the first major upgrade to the park on the north shore of Foster Reservoir in 50 years.

Among the improvements will be new restrooms, potable water systems, better access to water recreation, updated tables and benches and improved walking trails.

A new state-of-the art water boom was added to the swimming area last summer.

Improvements have begun at Rocky Top Bridge Group Site on Green Peter Reservoir. The plan is to develop a group camping site that will serve eight to 10 RVs with a total capacity of about 80 people. There will be eight picnic tables, a large group fire ring and a vault toilet.

Linn County Parks has been managing Cascadia State Park for several years and Carroll said he believes this will be the year the park ownership is turned over to the county by the state parks system.

“The state is working on the deed now,” Carroll said.

Cascadia State Park is about 10 miles east of Sweet Home and has 25 primitive campsites, two group tent camping areas and two reservable group picnic areas with kitchen shelters and electricity. The campground borders the South Santiam River and is surrounded by old-growth Douglas fir trees.

Carroll said Cabin 16 at Clear Lake Resort has been remodeled.

Four new yurts are almost finished at Whitcomb Creek Park, Carroll said.

“They have beautiful views of the reservoir,” Carroll said.

Boat-in camping will also be allowed at North Whitcomb Creek, Carroll said.

“There will eventually be six yurts and seven campsites,” Carroll said. “Access will be by boat only.”

The site will include a vault toilet and in time, a potable water well.

Another goal at Clear Lake Resort is developing a battery system that would take pressure off the diesel generators.

“Right now, we shut the power off at 10 p.m.” Carroll said. “With a battery system, people could run lights all night if they needed.”

This summer, Carroll hopes to build a new restroom for the “C” row at Sunnyside County Park on Foster Reservoir and by fall, add a new restroom near the playground at Waterloo County Park.

“We will use a similar design at Whitcomb Creek Park,” Carroll said.

Carroll said he and his staff share the philosophy that, “We listen to the people. They will tell you what they want. They want to spend time with each other and have a good time.”

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