Rogue Advocates Submits Comments on Proposed Whitehorse County Park RV Expansion

Josephine County Parks (JCP) is pursuing plans to upgrade Whitehorse County Park, a quiet park along the Rogue River located on land zoned Exclusive Farm (EF) just outside of Grants Pass. The upgrade involves for paving over significant portions of the park and removing almost 350 trees in order to accommodate 20 RV sites and 10 tent sites.

Whitehorse County Park is a treasured bird sanctuary valued by bird watchers. Over 170 species have been recorded at the Park, more than any other sites surveyed in the Rogue Valley. The Park is such great host for birds and other wildlife because of its diversity of habitats, including the oak-pine forested area where JCP proposes to remove hundreds of trees. The proposed upgrade is located a 1/4 mile from the Wild & Scenic portion of the Rogue River, and is graded towards the river, causing potential problems with increased motorized traffic to the area.

Existing Whitehorse Park campground (left) and proposed Whitehorse Park RV Park (right).

In May 2021, the Community Development Director approved the bulk of the proposal, but found that the portion of the plans adding full RV hook-ups required a Goal 3 exception and Comprehensive Plan because such hook-ups are not permitted on EF land. The Planning Commission is therefore holding a separate hearing, limited to consideration of the full hook-ups Goal 3 exception, on February 7, 2022. Separating consideration of the plans into these two stages is a questionable practice, as it shields the bulk of the plans that have already been approved from being fully assessed under the stricter and more expansive criteria for granting the exception, yet the rest of the proposal would make no sense as a development plan without adding full RV hook-ups.

Rogue Advocates (RA) submitted comments arguing, among other things, that JCP’s application does not adequately address or mitigate habitat impacts, potential pollution, and increased wildfire risk associated with the plans. We argue that the plans to drastically remove such valuable bird habitat is at odds with Josephine County’s policy to “preserve valued limited resources, unique natural areas and historic features” and that the plans should be reconsidered to mitigate these impacts. We also contend that JCP failed to address increased risks from wildfire and flooding by “converting 24 underutilized tent sites into 20 RV sites and 10 tent sites.” This will represent a dramatic increase in RV traffic (and their associated pollution and combustible products) to the Park, as is JCP’s goal, and JCP is required to assess how this will increase the risk to surrounding residents and the surrounding area. Our comments also assert that the proposal is at odds with climate change, prioritizing fossil fuel-dependent motorized traffic over trees and habitat critical to carbon sequestration and species survival in a changing world.

Read RA’s full comments below.

The Planning Commission will consider the application on February 7, 2022, but is only authorized to provide a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners. The Board of Commissioners will then hold another hearing on the proposal on whether to approve the Goal 3 exception.