Oregon’s state parks system has a hit on it hands with its growing yurt program.
Yurts - straight-walled, tentlike shelters - were first introduced in Oregon parks three years on an experimental basis. Today there are 80 of them in 11 coastal state parks stretching from Fort Stevens in the north to Brookings in the south, as well as three inland campgrounds.
One recent guest wrote: “Our 58-year-old father swore he was not coming on this family holiday trip, as he is ‘not a camper.’ Thanks to the year-round universal recreational tent (yurt) we may have him hooked.”
Yurts are canvas buildings with a solid wood floor, 10-foot ceiling, a skylight, electricity and a heater. They sleep five, and campers are protected from the elements - even in winter. The state parks department charges $25 a night, and summer occupancy runs 99 percent.
The man behind the state’s yurt venture is Craig Tudor, a 44-year-old self-described “Californian by birth and Oregonian by choice.”
When Tudor was manager for the park system’s northwest region, he suggested installing two 16-foot-diameter yurts as an experiment at Cape Lookout. They went up in February 1994 and became an instant hit.
“People love them,” Tudor says with a big smile as he sits near a model yurt in the state parks office building in Salem.
Yurt - the Turkic word for dwelling - originally described a circular tent used by Mongolian nomads. It consisted of felt or skins on a framework of poles and was designed to withstand high winds and retain heat in winter.
The park system’s modern variation has a framed-in, lockable wooden door, window screens and flaps, waterproof canvas and insulation. Each offers a double bed with a single bunk on top, and a futon that sleeps two more.
Inside, the yurts are equipped with a table, lamp, heater, fire extinguisher, and a broom and dustpan for cleanup.
“Basically,” says Tudor, “we made the state parks a wintertime paradise without the threat of a damp tent in a downpour. And RV’ers who no longer want to drive their big rigs around feel secure in them.”
The yurts cost the parks department about $6,000 each, and pay for themselves within a year.
Tudor, who today serves as the public services manager for the state parks system, fields about 10 yurt inquiries a month from state parks officials as far away as Pennsylvania and Georgia.
And there’s been no shortage of testimonials from enthusiastic campers such as Nita and Butch Cleveland of Roseburg, Ore., who wrote: “Four days of great camping. (Yurt) worked perfect with Dad in a wheelchair. First comfortable camping trip we’ve been able to take him on in a long time! Clean and comfortable. Thanks a lot.”
Harry, Mary and Zoe wrote: “We need more yurts, yes, more, more, more. Thanks for being progressive, innovative, thoughtful of the disabled, etc. … Now how about a Jacuzzi on the deck?”
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: IF YOU GO Yurts are available at the following Oregon state parks: Fort Stevens, Nehalem Bay, Cape Lookout, Beverly Beach, South Beach, Jessie Honeyman, Sunset Bay, Bullards Beach, Harris Beach, Champoeg, Valley of the Rogue and Wallowa Lake. For reservations, call (800) 452-5687. For general Oregon parks information, call (800) 551-6949.
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