I've been attending meetings on this since discussions began back in 2009 and would like to add a few things on why camping is being considered in Bradley Park.
First, I also really enjoy Bradley Park and spend a good bit of time there in the summer and cross country skiing there in the winter. It is indeed a great asset to our community.
The main reason camping is being considered in Bradley Park is in order for the city to maintain what already has in its parks system, a new revenue stream needs to be created. Just like everywhere else, the Parks Department budget has been cut more and more over the past several years. Just last year alone, two very nice new amenities were donated in a roof for Old Engine 19 in Toddler Park and a new pavilion in Veterans Memorial Park. While these were great additions to the parks, the long term maintenance cost were not factored into the city accepting the donations. Some cities require something like $150,000 be paid as part of putting up a say $80,000 pavilion in a park. While this does cover the long-term maintenance cost, it doesn't necessarily motivate volunteer groups to make such charitable donations. Plus, it doesn't help with the several facilities that already exist in the park system.
The Parks Comm. held two Visioning Session in 2009 where the public was invited to offer suggestions about the park system and what they would like to see added in the future. It was through these Visioning Sessions the idea of Bradley Park camping came about. A look out tower was addressed and is part of a proposed boat museum/community center that could be built near SARA Park if a revenue stream is created. Other possibilities proposed for the parks include a bathroom/changing room at Frenchtown Beach, enhancing the Skateboard Park in Pride Park, returning toboggan trails to Bradley Park and the list goes on and on. These are just a few of several proposed improvements that could be added to the parks if a revenue stream is established. On a side note, the Finance Comm. proposed cutting part of Summer Rec. program last week to balance the 2012 city budget. Again, another example of the need to generate revenue.
Camping at Bradley Park (including additional campsites and improvements to those that already exist at SARA Park) wasn't the only new revenue stream suggested. The Committee is currently in the process of creating "user fees" for renting pavilions in the parks. While no exact costs have yet been determined ($150 was the amount discussed) a portion of the funds would be designated for long-term maintenance of the building rented, another portion would be designated for maintenance of all the parks system, and say $50 would be returned as down payment.
Getting back to camping at Bradley Park, UW-Extension Lincoln County conducted a feasibility study a couple months back to look into whether it would create unwanted competition with area private sector campgrounds. The study revealed most area campsites are reserved for extended periods of time during the summer, meaning the Bradley Park campground, which would limit extended stays to only a couple weeks, would service an entirely different market. The reason visits would be limited is to avoid campers from "making home" of a campsite. The city also had an economic impact study conducted to determine whether the park would cash flow. As proposed, the park would be developed in stages so funds raised could pay down debt as it is built. The city is currently in the process of looking into more detailed numbers to determine whether or not a campground would be a sound investment.
Along with new pavilion roofs and maintenance, the city has had to cut summer help over the years from eight to three positions this past summer. A good number of citizens have been working to make the city a more attractive place over the past several years. As part of those efforts, the city has been enforcing municipal codes that require lawns on private property to be maintained. If budgets continue to shrink and more summer help positions are eliminated, the city would likely not be able to maintain its own property. Along with not being able to enforce its own city code, the city was also informed recently the volunteer group that plants and maintains many of the flowers that adorn the downtown area in the summer might need help in the future as its members age. Again, without a new revenue stream this wouldn't likely be a project the Parks Department would take on with a reduced staff.
Camping in Bradley Park wasn't something proposed to make a lot of money for the city. It was proposed more out of necessity as a way to maintain what already exists in the parks and possibly one day add new amenities that could benefit residents and youth in the community. If the campground is built, it could have far reaching effects on the city extending much farther than the borders of Bradley Park.
I also want to add camping is being considered near Mirror Lake and not in the main portion of the park where most daytime visitors go. Plans are to select-cut trees in order to make the campsites less obtrusive and more attractive to campers. That being said, a campground in Bradley Park would certainly increase foot traffic in the park. It would forever change the serenity many of us enjoy. But on the other hand, if a new revenue stream isn't generated, all the city's 11 parks might someday provide a great place to go to find plenty of serenity.
This is no doubt a tough issue for those of us who frequent Bradley Park regularly for its serene beauty. Hopefully much more discussion from both sides will take place before anything goes forward. I apologize for the length of this posting. I understand why many would like to keep the park as it is now. I just wanted to get out there some of the reasons as I understand why the campground is being considered.