Thursday, September 20, 2018

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Camping changes weighed at Eau Claire County parks

Unwanted behavior prompts discussion of policies

  • HarstadCountyPark-March2018-indd

    Staff graphic

Eau Claire County officials are seeking policy changes for its campgrounds in an effort to reduce unwanted behavior at the more isolated Harstad County Park.

“Last year we had a lot of issues with people not paying and overstaying,” said Bobbi Barone, clerk for the Advisory Committee on Parks and Forest. “They were doing activities that perhaps don’t fit with what was intended to be done at the campground.”

The committee will start brainstorming at its next meeting, 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Agriculture and Resource Center, 227 First St. W., Altoona. Once that committee comes up with a policy recommendation, it will go before the Parks and Forest Committee.

The county operates two campgrounds: Coon Fork on Highway CF near Augusta and Harstad on Highway HHH between Fall Creek and Augusta.

Coon Fork is larger than Harstad in both size and use. While Coon Fork’s campground has 108 sites and an average of 6,000 camping nights a year, Harstad has 28 sites and about 800 camping nights a year. That difference coupled with Harstad’s more isolated location means it’s monitored less often than Coon Fork, Barone said, making it harder to enforce visitor stays and behavior.

At each campground, campers may stay 14 nights before they need to vacate their site, Barone said. During the regular season at Coon Fork, she said, someone lives on site five days a week to keep an eye on the campground. At Harstad, several days could go by before someone can get to the site to check in, she said.

“That’s the difficulty with enforcing anything,” Barone said, noting that Coon Fork has running water and electricity whereas Harstad does not. “It’s hard to find the right fit for someone to be a campground host (at Harstad) because it is a primitive campground.”

In addition to overstaying at the site, county officials noticed some campers using the site in ways it’s not intended to be used.

“They’ve had some problems where people come down and park their cars and work on them,” said Pat LaVelle, chairman of the Parks and Forest Committee. “People had their cars with the wheels off and propped up on blocks.”

Barone said she’s not sure what the Advisory Committee on Parks and Forest will come up with as potential solutions. The committee’s next meeting is the first time members will talk about the issue.

“I’m leaving it up to them,” Barone said. “It’s a tough issue.”

Contact: 715-830-5828,, @LaurenKFrench on Twitter

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