New RV campground approved for Wapiti area

Posted 2/25/20

A new RV campground is coming to the Wapiti Valley.

At a meeting last month, Park County commissioners unanimously approved a special use permit for the Homestead Campground, allowing construction …

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New RV campground approved for Wapiti area

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A new RV campground is coming to the Wapiti Valley.

At a meeting last month, Park County commissioners unanimously approved a special use permit for the Homestead Campground, allowing construction to move forward. The green light came despite a couple of objections from a competing Wapiti RV park and a neighbor.

Located along U.S. Highway 14/16/20, not far from the Red Barn gas station, the Homestead Campground will offer 14 campsites for self-contained recreational vehicles. Electricity will be provided — along with a bear-proof dumpster — but there will be no water or sewer hookups or bathrooms.

Owner Tamara Young intends for the Homestead Campground to be a family-run business, operating it with her mother each May through October.

The land has been owned by Young’s family since the 1920s, but she said they’ve struggled to make enough money from farming to support the upkeep and taxes.

“The income provided by the campground will enable me to keep the ranch intact instead of selling it to developers or subdividing it myself,” she wrote in an application to the county.

Young said she’ll add trees and bushes to screen the campground from the highway and “minimize the visual impact on the beautiful Wapiti Valley.” An RV will serve as an office on the north end of the campground, she said, located “as far away as possible from the highway and all of my neighbors.”

Young added that the North Fork area west of Cody “has a long history of catering to travelers and is lined with a variety of businesses, so my campground will have no impact on the character of the valley.”

However, at a Jan. 21 public hearing on the permit, a few people expressed concerns to county commissioners about the new development.

Alisa Acosta of the Yellowstone Valley Inn and RV Park — located about 4 miles east of Homestead Campground — quizzed commissioners on whether they had a plan for managing growth in the corridor.

“I bought into the North Fork because of the beauty of North Fork,” said Acosta, whose LLC purchased the Yellowstone Valley Inn in August 2018; she said she’s made a “huge investment in the valley,” employing a full staff and having to comply with state and federal environmental regulations.

Acosta asked commissioners whether anyone is considering the potential of “overapproving too many RV parks in this valley.” Between government and private sites, she said there are more than 1,000 RV spots between Cody and the Fishing Bridge campground in Yellowstone National Park; she also said Airbnbs have caused problems for hotels and motels.

“... if there’s too many without a plan, I believe it’s going to cause everybody to make less money,” Acosta said, “and so I’m very concerned about that.”

However, Commissioner Jake Fulkerson said it wasn’t the county’s place to consider what impact a campground’s permit might have on competitors.

“We have a lot of responsibility,” Fulkerson said, “but determining the economic viability of a project is not on our plate.”

Commissioner Lee Livingston also noted that the North Fork corridor has historically served the traveling public.

“I know there’s folks opposed to expansions like this, but personally I guess I’d rather see something like this than see that chopped into 5-acre lots and homes on it,” Livingston said. “It’s an opportunity for the Youngs to keep this property intact and not see it developed further.”

Commissioner Dossie Overfield did raise some qualms about whether the access to the campground off Bradford Drive would be adequate but ultimately voted aye.

Bill Landwer, who lives along Bradford Drive, had expressed concerns about the access. He said sight distances make it a dangerous spot for RVs to pull on and off the highway and that the access is too narrow and needs to be improved.

“I just don’t think it’s safe,” Landwer said. He feared that he wouldn’t be able to get out of his driveway in the summer, when “the tourists drive … pretty crazy.”

Yellowstone Valley Inn Operations Manager Brian Clements also shared concerns about the narrow road to the campground, the use of gravel roads instead of a harder surface and the lack of a sewage dump or public restrooms.

“Where are they going to take their sewage — all the way into Yellowstone, or all the way back to Cody to dump?” he asked.

Red Barn owner Amanda Seibert, who supported the project, suggested that Homestead Campground guests could use the restrooms at her convenience store. Meanwhile, the special use permit requires all RVs at the site to be “self-contained” — that is, having all needed utilities within the vehicle.

The county’s planning and zoning board recommended limiting the campground to hard-sided campers because of grizzly bears, but commissioners didn’t feel the restriction was necessary.

“I’m tired of bears dictating what we do in this county,” said Commission Chairman Joe Tilden.

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