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Costly upgrades may close popular Guerneville campground

A Guerneville campground may have to close in the face of costly county-mandated improvements, its owner said.

The Sonoma County Board of Zoning Adjustments said that Michael Skaggs must make health and safety upgrades at Camp Outback, his popular Russian River recreation spot.

The work, including adding restrooms and a sewer connection, could cost more than $150,000, Skaggs said.

Camp Outback In Guerneville


"This is tearing us up financially," he said. "The county is trying to close my business. I won't be able to operate."

Skaggs' grandfather, John Skaggs, bought the 11-acre property along Pocket Canyon Creek in the 1950s and ran a small amusement park, J's Amusements, with water slides, go-carts and a roller coaster.

Skaggs and his wife, Tracie, closed the amusement park in 2003 but continued to offer rustic camping under a thick wooded canopy.

Supporters of the Guerneville mainstay say this is an example of gentrification along the Russian River, where kitschy tourist attractions have given way to vineyards and million-dollar vacation homes.

"This place needs to stay open," said Jonathan Schroder, a Guerneville mover. "With all the wineries and bed-and-breakfasts, there are fewer options for people who want to experience what Mother Nature has to offer."

Tom Glover, who owns Playland, an arcade and mini golf center across Highway 116 from Camp Outback, said he sympathized with his neighbor.

"Any day, the county could do that to us," he said. "I kind of expect it."

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