Local businessman Reed Pendleton has been working with county officials for years to try to get approval to create a developed RV campground north of town on the west side of Highway 191. A public hearing was held on the project at the Sept. 21 Grand County Commission meeting. Ahead of the hearing, planning commissioners had failed to approve a positive recommendation for the project, while county staff recommended that the commission approve the application.
The project location is within the recently created Scenic Resource Protection zone, and within the boundaries of the Small Area Plan that was drafted to guide the development of the Highway 191 corridor north of town.
County staff said the application complies with standards implemented in the recently passed Overnight Accommodations Ordinance, and Pendleton says the campground will hardly be visible from the highway.
The Willow Springs area has a popular dispersed camping area, and Pendleton asserted that the development could address camping problems and reduce traffic in town.
Commissioner Kevin Walker noted that the ratio of overnight accommodations units to residential units in town is already high, and likely to go up as already vested developments are built out. That ratio was of great public concern when the Overnight Accommodations Ordinance was being drafted.
Walker also expressed skepticism that the project would reduce illegal camping or traffic in town, speculating that visitors would still come into town even if they were camping at the proposed campground, and that many dispersed campers would not opt for a commercial campground even if it were available.
Walker noted, too, that he was on the planning commission when the Small Area Plan was being drafted, and he remembers both the commission and the public having a negative view of RV campgrounds in the boundaries of the plan.
Commissioner Trisha Hedin referenced a synopsis of survey data collected during the planning effort that said 75% of respondents didn’t support RV campgrounds in the Small Area Plan boundaries.
Pendleton responded that a campground serves a different need than a hotel, and that more campgrounds are needed.
“You can build a thousand more hotel rooms, and you’re still gonna have people dumping their crap out there on the public lands,” he said, addressing the concern about the ratio of overnight accommodations to residential units.
He said existing RV campgrounds fill up and have to send visitors to Green River or Monticello, meaning the local economy misses out on much of the business of those visitors, while Moab still bears the infrastructure burdens they bring as they drive into Moab for day trips.
Pendleton added that he’s a resident of Grand County, and that as a business owner the revenues he makes from the campground will stay in the community.
“Anybody can come in and invest money and develop something to the new standards that we’ve laid out,” he said. “It’s just a dollar sign.”
He urged the commission to support projects pitched by locals. Pendleton added that he currently provides workforce housing for 19 local individuals.
Pendleton also addressed a concern raised by Commissioner Sarah Stock when he assured the commission that the property has an existing well and water right.
Michael and Christopher Skarda, who are involved in developments neighboring the Willow Springs property, called in to the Zoom meeting to express support for the project.
Michael Skarda pointed out that the county strongly supported a new campground in the newly designated Utahraptor State Park, which is close to the proposed Willow Springs campground, as well as a proposed Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands campground that predated the Utahraptor designation.
“I have a hard time seeing what the difference is between his campground that was proposed before and is still being proposed [and the proposed state campgrounds,]” he said. Michael Skarda also noted that the area is not a pristine wilderness, but an area that has been developed in the past.
“It would be fantastic if you supported the campground and alleviated some stress on all these boondockers, and give them some services and help protect the environment,” he said.
Christopher Skarda said there aren’t enough services to support visitors, especially in the Island in the Sky and Dead Horse Point area.
“I feel like this is needed,” Christopher Skarda said. “We certainly see a lot of campers in the area, there’s a demand for it, and the people that visit our beautiful area here, appreciate the value of it.”
The Grand County Commission meets on the first and third Tuesday of every month at 4 p.m. Meetings are streamed online at the Grand County Youtube channel. Schedules, agendas and opportunities for public comment can be found at www.grandcountyutah.net. Residents can email email@example.com to automatically reach each County Commission member, the commission administrator, the associate commission administrator, and the county attorney.