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Everybody's planning for camping

First published in the June 4 print edition

Matt McGrath, deputy director, Port of Astoria
By Cindy Yingst, Thursday, June 10, 2021

While many people have thought about camping during the pandemic, at least two municipalities are mulling the idea, too.

The city of Warrenton is looking at ways to increase the availability of camping at its two marinas. And the Port of Astoria may consider creating a new campground altogether.

The idea to build a campground on the bayfront – property on the Skipanon Peninsula owned by the Port of Astoria – was brought up Tuesday by Warrenton City Commissioner Rick Newton. And port leaders were interested.

“RV parks are real big right now,” said Matt McGrath, deputy executive director for the port. “The Port of Newport spent $5 million to build an RV park … and it paid for itself in seven years.”

Newport’s South Beach RV Park and Marina has 144 spaces, full hookups, showers, laundry, a dump station, and miles of hiking and biking trails.

Newton suggested the port build 200 to 300 campsites, dredge the bayfront to build mooring slips, and build a boardwalk over wetlands. A high-end hotel could go at the tip of the peninsula.

“I want you guys to make money,” Newton said. Later, in a discussion about the port’s financial situation, Newton added, “you guys have really turned this (your financial situation) around and I didn’t think it was possible.”

Development of the Skipanon Peninsula is a high priority for the port, McGrath said. But expansion of the boatyard is even higher.

“I think we can get the ball rolling by the end of this year,” McGrath said. “The boatyard is first, and this project is second.”

Expansion of the boatyard, which was cramped before the log-exporting business dried up, is a three- to four-year process that would include the conversion of 12 acres, plus the addition of an 800-ton mobile lift, an enclosed shop and covered work shed.

The port’s Capital Improvement Plan, which was just approved by Business Oregon, lists RV park development among the list of projects. The port owns more than 100 acres on the Skipanon Peninsula, much of it valuable waterfront property. Warrenton Marina is on the west, Youngs Bay is on the east and it extends south to Harbor Drive in areas.

The port would seek a grant for an RV park feasibility study from Business Oregon. Funds to build the park could come from the state or the port could develop a public-private partnership.

“Given the strong economic outlook for RV parks generally, finding a private partner is imminently possible – especially if the results of the feasibility study are favorable,” to port’s Capital Improvement Plan states.

During a Warrenton City Commission meeting last week, city leaders discussed ways to add more camping spots at Hammond and Warrenton marinas. And it’s likely city commissioners will vote at their next meeting to boost the nightly camping rate from $40 to $50.

Members of a new Marinas Advisory Committee will be asked to come up with projects that can be added in the city’s Capital Improvement Plan, City Manager Linda Engbretson said.

Rick Newton

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