RACINE — A potential campground project targeted for a plot of land located behind the Boone County Ambulance Authority complex and the Racine Volunteer Fire Department received little support during an ambulance authority meeting May 20.
While the authority board did not make a decision on the request for use of the land for the initiative from Boone County Commission President Craig Bratcher, a clear showing of collective support wasn’t expressed by board members.
The 1.98 acres was deeded to the authority by the commission on April 5, 2016. Bratcher made a presentation regarding the viability of a campground on the plot in conjunction with the upcoming Indian Creek Hatfield McCoy Trail head that officials say will break ground next year.
Bratcher, via a message after the meeting, spoke about what he hopes can come to fruition.
“I know that there are a lot of details that need to be worked out between the commission, ambulance authority and the [Racine] fire department, but I’m sure with good positive talks, working together to find a good solution for all parties involved this could turn out to be a great boost to our economy,” said Bratcher, who also serves on a Boone County Economic Development board. “And possibly a great money maker for the ambulance authority and fire department.”
He added, “Concern over the entrance to the campground could be accessed from the park, making a road near the last park shed and building up the entrance into the camp ground and not using any of the fire department’s driveway or parking lot.”
Boone County Ambulance Authority Vice President Chad Barker said he is open to discussing anything, but doesn’t support the BCAA entering the campground management business.
“Our guys are tasked with running the EMS service for the county so we don’t operate campgrounds, obviously,” Barker said. “My second thought is that you don’t want to encroach upon the office there, or the day-to-day operations of the ambulance authority. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen. I don’t want to speak for our board, but I think the board collectively supports economic growth in the county and it is something exciting to see coming in. We want to be a good neighbor and do what we can to see the county grow.”
Authority president Freddie Harless echoed Barker’s sentiments, but clearly is not in support of surrendering the property.
“I’m not 100% against it, but I don’t think at this time we’re in the position to entertain the idea of getting rid of a piece of property when there is so much uncertainty about what will take place,” Harless said. “There is no who, what or when. There are so many questions that need answered and right now, nobody has the answers. There isn’t much clarity other than they want to put in some camper spots.”
Harless said there is no information regarding how the campground would operate.
“How will it be managed and secured? And I think we may be trying to get the cart before the horse,” he said. “I wouldn’t want an entity of county government throwing something on me if I was a citizen of that area if they didn’t know how they were going to control it.”
BCAA attorney Rich Walters expressed in the open meeting there is a possibility the commission could legally reclaim the plot of land.
“At the end of the line, yes they probably can,” he told the board.
There is a reversal clause related to the deed that states that if the ambulance authority were to use the property for any purpose other than ambulance service purposes, it would revert back to the county.
When asked if the commission reclaiming the property would be a consideration, Bratcher said via message, “Yes.”
He added, “Nothing is off the table.”
During the meeting, Bratcher proposed the BCAA relinquish the property back to the Boone County Commission and then, the county could potentially give it to another agency or group to develop.
“Then maybe we could give it to economic development or to a group that could do a campground,” he said.
For the Racine Volunteer Fire Department, which sits adjacent to the Boone County Ambulance Authority on Route 3, Chief Brandon Miller spoke on behalf of the department.
“Our board is really not going to go along with this,” Miller said in the meeting. “We are a 501(c)(3) [non profit] and if we were part of running a business in any way, it could affect our status.”
Unless access to the plot was re-routed from the current status, the fire department access to Route 3 could be compromised via campground traffic.
“I’d rather see you develop John Slack Park (Racine Park) into something like this and I would be fine with a football and soccer field in my back yard if Sherman high wants a soccer field, I’d be fine with that,” Boone County Ambulance Authority Director of Operations Joey Smith said. “I’d rather see something that is for occasional use for the kids than something for drunk 4-wheeler riders.”
Bratcher added, “If this or a campground is not established near the main trail head then I see the trail failing in a few short years. Most people that travel to the Hatfield and McCoy Trail systems drive or pull an RV or camper. This could be a great opportunity for all involved.”
Bratcher and the BCAA board have mutually agreed to revisit the proposal at a future date.