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News for January 20, 2022

California Campground Reopening On Hold Indefinitely

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The idea of reopening an existing campground in Manila Community Park has been placed on hold indefinitely.

The Manila Community Services District Board of Directors approved 4-1, with Sequoyah Faulk-Kellogg dissenting, to pause reopening the campground at its November 18 meeting.

The district has been operating a tiny camping area on the north part of the park for nearly 20 years. It was closed after the coronavirus outbreak began in the first quarter of 2020. The park has four campsites, one of which was used by a caretaker until early this year when she moved out of the area.

Over the summer, Farrah Davis of Arcata approached the district with a suggestion to open the campground. She proposed moving her camper to the campsite in exchange for free space and operating the camp for six months out of the year. Three sites are available for guests.

On October 21, the board voted 4-1—with chair Meghan Ryan dissenting—to have staff draw up a contract with Davis and bring it back to the board for consideration.

After that vote, resident Gerald Rotter circulated a petition asking that the campground remain closed. More than 65 people, mostly Manila residents, signed the petition.

The camp has caused controversy for years, with residents complaining about dilapidated campers staying longer than they are permitted to and people littering the site.

“It’s been open for 20 years, and it’s been a problem for 20 years,” said District Manager Chris Drop.

In the past year, the Redwood Community Action Agency held public scoping sessions to decide the kind of improvements Manila wanted to see in the park. The participants often said that they would like to shut down the campground.

However, Faulk-Kellogg suggested that revitalizing the camp would accomplish many of the things that the community would like. The host of the camp would act as an official park caretaker. In the plan, Davis was also going to create a garden for the community and assist in organizing the community.

The campground has historically earned enough revenue to cover its expenses despite not being advertised. The proposal of Davis included promoting the campsite on the internet.

“It’s very likely this would be a financial asset for the district,” Faulk-Kellogg said.

As for the controversy over opening the campground, Faulk-Kellogg noted that it has been in operation for years.

“When I think of this in that context, it wouldn’t be that dramatic,” he said.

Others, however, said that the town should have a plan for the park and consider other uses for the campground.

“My first reaction is that I feel this is too soon to jump into an agreement with a caretaker before having a master plan in place,” said Manila resident and former board member Carol Vander Meer.

A few people expressed concern regarding the process. In this instance, Davis came up with a proposal and contract language and contacted the district.  The district did not develop its own proposal and then issue a request for proposals (RFP), which would allow others to compete for the camp host position.

The district asked its attorney, Edwin Aquilar of The Mitchell Law Firm, if it was legally able to award an agreement to Davis without a formal solicitation for proposals.

“There is no statutory obligation to publish an RFP in this case. The limited amount of case law also does not mandate an RFP in this case,” stated Aguilar in a letter to the district. ” However, it is good practice to publish one in the future for transparency and to avoid complaints.”

Ultimately, Danielle Muniz made a motion to table the proposal indefinitely. Ryan seconded this, and the motion passed 4-1, with Faulk-Kellogg dissenting.

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