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Patrick Springer, Published October 22 2010

Dorgan wants campground scrapped

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., has told U.S. Forest Service officials he wants them to scratch a proposed campground in the Sheyenne National Grass­lands that he be­lieves would duplicate a nearby private campground.

Dorgan sent a letter earlier this week to the regional forester recommending they abandon the proposed Jorgen’s Hollow Campground, which would be near the National Scenic North Country Trail in the northeastern corner of the Sheyenne National Grasslands.

“I hope that common sense will prevail in this instance and plans for the new Forest Service campground will be scrapped,” Dorgan wrote.

Owners of the nearby Sheyenne Oaks Horse Camp and RV Park, which opened in 2009, have been at odds with Forest Service officials over the closure of several gates near their campground that once provided convenient access to trails on the grasslands in southeast North Dakota.

Jorgen’s Hollow, which would include a horse camp and general camping areas, has been in planning stages since 2007 and was listed in proposed projects in 2008, according to Forest Service officials.

“The Forest Service’s proposal is designed to accommodate the needs of all campers desiring to use the area, not just horse use,” said Dave Pieper, who manages the Dakota Prairie Grasslands, which include the Sheyenne National Grasslands. “The goal is not to compete with any private services, but to allow the public to enjoy the Sheyenne National Grasslands.”

The Jorgen’s Hollow Campground would have fewer amenities than Sheyenne Oaks, Pieper said, and is intended to address health and sanitation problems arising from dispersed camping in areas without toilet facilities.

Forest Service officials say Sheyenne Oaks owner Ron Hansen was informed about the planned Jorgen’s Hollow Campground when he met with the district ranger in spring 2008, early in the project’s scoping process.

Hansen doesn’t recall learning of the proposed Jorgen’s Hollow Campground until receiving a notice in the mail several days after buying land adjacent to the grassland.

Hansen and his wife decided to develop a campground to help pay for acquiring the land.

Although the Forest Service closed three trail gates near Sheyenne Oaks, citing concerns about damage to fragile sandy soils by horses and motor vehicles, officials allowed the Hansens to build their own gate to provide more convenient trail access for their customers.

Instead of building Jorgen’s Hollow Campground, Dorgan suggested, the Forest Service could use the money to improve trail access linking Sheyenne Oaks to the Sheyenne National Grassland.

“The U.S. Forest Service cannot use federal tax dollars to specifically benefit a single, for-profit business at the exclusion of access to others,” Pieper said, adding officials will continue to try to find solutions benefiting Sheyenne Oaks and the general public.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522