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West Fargo City Commission squashes path to expand Red River Valley Fairgrounds campground expansion

Neighbors of the fair call the current campground a "man camp."

Red River Valley Fair Campground
An aerial view of the campground at the Red River Valley Fairgounds.Special to the Pioneer
Special to the Pioneer
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WEST FARGO — An ordinance change to allow the Red River Valley Fairgrounds to consider increasing its campground spaces failed at a second reading of the proposal.

Before voting on the change, Monday, Oct. 3, Mayor Bernie Dardis explained that the commission was only voting on an ordinance change that would allow the Red River Valley Fair to explore the idea of expanding its existing campgrounds, a necessary step before the fairgrounds could draft any type of plan or proposal to expand.

"There is no proposal to come before us," Dardis said.

The commission passed the ordinance changes at its Sept. 19 meeting with a vote of 3-2. Commissioners Mandy George and Mark Simmons dissented, while Dardis and Commissioners Brad Olson and Roben Anderson voted to approve it. George was not in attendance Monday, and without discussion from any of the commissioners the vote tied, this time with Anderson voting against it.

The Red River Valley Fair Association would like to add an additional 130 sites for campers in what is currently a vacant lot. Fair Association Chief Executive Officer Cody Cashman asked the Cass County commissioners in June for help financing a $3.5 million project that would add to the current 71 sites, stating that the fair turns away 25 to 40 campers per week.

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Cashman said the campground is "very profitable" and that it brings in about $270,000 in revenue each year with about $40,000 in expenses. The profit helps with fairground operations. He estimated that the expansion of camping spots could add $450,000 to $600,000 in revenue per season, which runs from about May 1 to Nov. 1.

Anderson said after the first meeting he heard from a lot of residences. While he was "on the fence," the handful of residents who attended Monday's meeting, but did not speak publicly, swayed his vote to "no."

Residents expressed concern that additional spots would increase crime near the neighborhood. Some residents have likened the current campground to a "man camp" or said the expansion would amount to the equivalent of a man camp, housing a majority of single people instead of families.

Cashman refuted those claims, saying the fair does not discriminate the against campers. He also noted the campground has not generated a high amount of calls to law enforcement. The Red River Valley Fairgrounds is not part of the city of West Fargo. Therefore it is not policed by the West Fargo Police but is regulated by the Cass County Sheriff's Office.

Readers can reach West Fargo editor Wendy Reuer at wreuer@forumcomm.com or 701-241-5530 . Follow her on Twitter @ForumWendy .

As the West Fargo editor, Wendy Reuer covers all things West Fargo for The Forum and oversees the production of the weekly Pioneer.
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