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.
"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."
Skaggs' troubles began in 2010 when a movie production wanted to film scenes at his abandoned amusement park. The county allowed the filming but discovered he was operating the campground without a use permit.
The zoning board approved the use permit in April with 42 conditions. Skaggs is appealing what he calls the financially burdensome conditions to the Board of Supervisors.
A hearing set for Aug. 13 may be postponed since the supervisor for his district, Efren Carrillo, was arrested on suspicion of prowling and burglary on Saturday.
Zoning board commissioners said they wanted to make sure the business complied with county codes.
"I don't think we can just look at financial considerations and ignore the safety issues," said commissioner Pam Davis. "I stand by what we did. There's a reason we have codes. Some may seem onerous."
Skaggs is required to keep the noise down after 10 p.m. Neighbor Carrie Armstrong said she frequently complained about loud noise and music coming from the campground early in the morning.
"It's hard to live next to," she said. "The noise and traffic is just too much."
Skaggs said he has moved campsites and bonfires away from the property line and tried to enforce quiet hours among his campers.
The 16 camp sites cost $15 per night and accommodate up to 20 people. The campground is open from April to October.