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CASPER, Wyo. — Those who boat, ski, camp, fish, swim and otherwise hang out at the Alcova, Pathfinder and Gray Reef reservoirs don't want a Sandals Resort, but they don't want inadequate boat docks and camping areas, either.

“We like the idea of a more structured campsite,” Patsy Smith said at the third workshop for crafting a master plan for the reservoirs along the North Platte River.

Campsites with better defined boundaries would improve collecting fees, which would be good for Natrona County and good for improvements, Smith said, speaking for her discussion group gathered around a table at the Agricultural Resource Center on Wednesday night.

People should be willing to pay for them, like they do at Glendo and Edness Kimball Wilkins state parks, she said.

“If people use these facilities, they've got to have some skin in the game,” Smith said.

She and other discussion leaders responded to a group of consultants hired by Natrona County to help craft a master plan for the reservoirs that will replace the one done in the early 1980s and guide their development for the next 20 years.

The county, with the approval of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, developed the most recent master plan when most campers used tents or small trailers.

Originally, the bureau built the Pathfinder, Alcova and Gray Reef reservoirs for irrigation purposes.

Over time, they became popular places for boating, camping, fishing and other recreation.

The bureau gave Natrona County the responsibility to police and maintain the land. The county collects user fees and rents from campers, owners of trailers and cabins at Alcova, owners of the marinas at Alcova and Pathfinder, and the boat and ski clubs.

The county plows that money into improvements such as the camping and picnic sites, rest rooms, parking lots and other infrastructure, including those that will come out of the recommendations of the eventual master plan.

The county also has assigned about $223,000 of those revenues, coupled with a $68,000 grant from the Bureau of Reclamation, to pay the consultants for their work on the three-year project for the master plan.

The plan will accommodate the changes over the past 25 years that include bigger recreational vehicles vying for space as much as those who pitch tents, larger boats, and greater crowds.

The consultants have collected surveys, conducted focus groups with special-interest groups such as boaters, and have taken comments.

They also have a better idea of what recreationists want than they did in August during the second public workshop, said Graham Billingsley of Boulder, Colo.

With 182 responses in the nonscientific surveys, Billingsley said the respondents spent about 20 days at Alcova, with the average stay amounting to nearly four days at a time.

The surveys also indicated:

The amount of time spent at the reservoir has increased and will continue to increase.

Respondents would be willing to pay $2.75 for a day pass and a little more than the current $7-a-day fee for camping. Of course, a lot of respondents didn't want to pay anything.

Alcova is “crowded,” but the crowds' behavior was “appropriate.”

Nature, the marina and swimming topped recreation interests.

Facilities at the reservoirs are in fair condition.

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Some visitors wanted fewer amenities, if not returning some of the areas back to nature.

Consultant Cliff Lind of Denver asked those at Wednesday's workshop to review possible campsite configurations, consider segregating campers in tents from those in RVs, paving areas for camper trailers and RVs, combinations of those ideas, or not changing anything.

He also asked them to review possible changes to Oakie Beach as an example, with the participants' suggestions to be applied to the other beaches at the reservoirs.

Suggestions for other areas were welcome, too, Lind said.

The responses shared similar themes.

Festi Edwards' discussion group concurred with Smith's.

“We want to define campsites better so it's not a free-for-all,” Edwards said.

Her group also disliked overdeveloping campgrounds, especially those in more remote areas around the reservoirs, she said.

Likewise, parking areas for RVs should be developed near existing utilities, Edwards said.

Natrona County Parks assistant manager Margaret Teevens said her group favored an online reservation system for campsites, leaving primitive campsites alone, and asking the Bureau of Recreation to lower Alcova's level a month later so people could have more time for recreation.

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Contact Tom Morton at tom.morton@trib.com or 307-266-0592.

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