I have known Henry Sloan for about three years now.
Henry is a fine young man who has opened a campground near my old stomping grounds along the Ohio River. The Sandy Springs Campground opened in 2008 in Adams County and is a fine place to stay. The campground, like all others in the area, relies not only people traveling to stop by, but local folks who want to put their camper somewhere near the river so they can have their boat near by.
Henry usually gives me an update on how he is doing every summer. Quite frankly it has been tough for him. The old analogy of “build it and they will come” hasn’t exactly worked for him.
He has made a tremendous investment in the land and the facilities. He followed the letter of the law in setting up his campground and it was costly.
It has truly been a labor of love for him.
This past weekend when I visited, I knew something was up so I fished as little to see if he would tell me.
See about 17 plus miles up the river near Portsmouth, the Scioto County Commissioners have announced plans to build a 60 site campground at Earl Thomas Conley Park. Sloan, like many others in the campground business, is not happy with this. Since early this year there have been grumblings about this project.
State Senator Joe Uecker has been watching this issue unfold as a request for funding from the state has been made from the Scioto County Commissioners.
Uecker was quoted in the Portsmouth Daily Times: “The question really comes down to, whether or not this particular facility (campgrounds) would compete with the private sector.”
Sloan feels it will have a big effect on his business, but he feels like he doesn’t have an oar to paddle with in this battle since he is in Adams County. But remember, a large part of this project is state money.
The biggest argument the commissioners are using in this debate is that the new campground will have Ohio River access. The closest campgrounds in Scioto County apparently do not. Sloan’s campground does have river access.
You can’t really fault the commissioners, there’s a huge push on in every community to have economic development. The feeling is that the tourists who camp there will spend their money in Portsmouth and the surrounding area.
But should the government do something that has been left up to free enterprise all these years? Sloan doesn’t think so and apparently many others do not either as 23 people petitioned the commissioners to hold a public hearing on the matter. The commissioners rejected the request.
In December 2013 the commissioners submitted a $326,000 capital request to the state of Ohio. According to the application submitted to the state by the commissioners, “The project will develop county property into a campground that will hold 60 campsites. The project will create three jobs and create tremendous tourism opportunities in Scioto County.”
The estimated project cost is $676,472, with $326,472 of the necessary funding being requested from the state.
The application states the remainder of the funding is anticipated to come from the Appalachian Regional Commission $250,000 with $100,000 being provided by the county. On the application, the county states the campground will be supported through a fee, that will allow the county to operate the campsite and create ongoing operational funds.
Many of you will remember the old government boat launches. Many of those are leased from the Army Corp of Engineers to private enterprise now and you see how well they have progressed. The government couldn’t keep the mud off of them in the old days, but, with profit in mind, the leasers keep them clean and in many cases have added campgrounds, playgrounds and docks.
I think there are times the government should be involved and times they should not. On this one, though, if it puts even one campground out of business it is not fair.
As much as I would like to see a campground up river, there’s a reason the government is not in the campground business.
Should the government be taking the same risk that Henry Sloan has taken? It hasn’t paid off for him yet.
Steve Triplett is the managing editor of this newspaper.