Business News, Communities, Front Page, Oakridge/Westfir, Outdoors

Trans Cascadia Excursions proposes camping ‘oasis,’ including store, in the heart of Westfir

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At Westfir City Hall a visitor from California tells the city council and community members Monday night how much he enjoys coming to the mountain community. Standing at left is Nick Gibson of Trans Cascadia Excursions, and seated in front is Westfir Councilor Edward Johnstone. Doug Bates/The Herald

By DOUG BATES/Editor/The Herald — Residents of Westfir got their first peek Monday night at an ambitious plan to transform 11.5 acres of mostly undeveloped property in the center of town into a camping mecca for outdoor enthusiasts.

The preliminary site proposal by Trans Cascadia Excursions received a generally warm response from the Westfir City Council.

Mayor Melody Cornelius called the plan “really exciting for us” and said it “seems to fit within permitted uses.”

“I love the idea of developing those grounds and have them used,” said Councilor D’Lynn Williams.

For Westfir, the project would be the largest of its kind in the small community’s modern history. And the presentation Monday evening completely dwarfed the news that this was the Oakridge-Westfir area’s first non-virtual (non-Zoomed) public meeting in well over a year because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Zoned for mixed-use development, the site stretches along the north side of Westoak Road from the Trans Cascadia headquarters on the west side, across from the Westfir Lodge, and is bordered roughly by the Union Pacific railroad on the north and east sides. The property includes the community’s now-vacant grocery store, which Nick Gibson of Trans Cascadia said would be restored, possibly as a food market, bike shop and cafe.

Gibson and his wife Jessi Gibson are co-founders of Trans Cascadia, which offers mountain bike shuttles and other outdoor excursions from its headquarters in Westfir. Jessi Gibson operates the Log Scale Shack Cafe at the business’s site at the intersection of Westoak and North Fork roads.

In his presentation to the council Monday night, Nick Gibson said the recreational attraction “is going to be amazing.” At present, he said, the plans call for 33 campsites in “a nice green oasis” that will also serve smaller RV campers and possibly include yurts. The development will be irrigated and include wastewater infrastructure allowing for restrooms and showers, he said.

The final site plan, which he and business partner Blair Banker hope to present to the city in September, will include picnic areas, pedestrian paths, a venue for live music and a dog-containment area, Gibson said.

Some Westfir residents have begun raising the issues of possible noise and traffic problems, as well as increased fire danger and even light pollution. Gibson promised the community that all such concerns will be mitigated.

“We are super-sensitive to our neighbors’ concerns,” he said.

“I think it’s a great plan,” said Cornelius, the mayor. She said Westfir sees its future as a haven for outdoor recreation, “and this appears to be well within that vision.”

The 11.5 acres that Trans Cascadia hopes to purchase and develop is owned by Bill Newland, who was present at Monday’s meeting. He is the son of Bob Newland, the former University of Oregon and NFL star who died June 30.

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