It’s rather easy to live in a place and not really understand what is around you. To most Eastern students, the words Camp Catalpa mean absolutely nothing to them. Some may even think it’s a fictional camp similar to Camp Crystal Lake in the Friday the 13th movies. But, in actuality, it’s a unique, quirky and beautiful stretch of land expanding off a small road across from Liquor Barn II, Rite-Aid and Dairy Queen in Richmond just below the Richmond Mall.
It wraps around the perimeter of Lake Reba and is also home to a bonafide bird sanctuary.
And while students could be excused for not recognizing its existence, since so many do not call Richmond home, some Richmond residents are also unfamiliar with their own home territory, Edna and Beverly Wickersham said.
The Wickershams are leading a crusade-titled “Save Camp Catalpa”-to stop a suspect proposal from going forward that will lease much of the Camp Catalpa property to a private company so they can build a recreational vehicle park. The park’s presence could possibly upset the habitat of the bird sanctuary and will definitely displace a disc golf course that some Eastern students who know about the park use.
While RV parks are a common occurrence within areas similar to Camp Catalpa, it was the method with which the proposal was passed that presents concerns for the future of the park.
Bruce Simpson, attorney for “Save Camp Catalpa”, told the Progress that it was unusual for a city commission to pass something of this magnitude without at least hearing the concerns and voices of the people.
Now, Save Camp Catalpa is playing catch-up as they rush to gain support from businesses, local organizations and groups and individuals on campus.
The Progress’ own discussions with students have shown almost no knowledge of the RV park, and as previously stated, many students did not even know the bird sanctuary or lake existed.
This poses a problem. The recent Madison County smoking ordinance was on everyone’s mind, and so was the Sunday alcohol sales debate in Richmond. These events had multiple public forums and the commissioners were forced to interact with the city and let citizens be heard.
But the fact that the bird sanctuary and Camp Catalpa itself have almost no advertising makes it easier for a proposal like this to slip through the cracks, and leaves the residents near Camp Catalpa alone in their attempt to hold the commission accountable for their actions.
The completely lackadaisical reaction to an RV park shows an underwhelming need for such a facility in Richmond. RV parks have become dime-a-dozen properties throughout the state and the country. A bird sanctuary is a rare and unique asset that should be preserved instead of endangered. And while there is no hard evidence the bird sanctuary will be destroyed, it is hard to believe the presence of a 15-acre RV park will not tarnish the area.
It’s true the city will make money off of the endeavor, but is it really necessary? Money could be better used to renovate and restore the downtown area as businesses continue to disappear. And Richmond will stand to gain sizable profits once the Richmond Centre and Aquatic Center open later this year. Richmond already functions as an epicenter for the people of Eastern Kentucky who want to shop or eat at a nice restaurant without making the additional half-hour drive to Lexington (or the long trek to Louisville or Cincinnati).
The acquisition of these two facilities should easily set Richmond up as the most attractive mid-level city in the state. Once again, is an RV park really necessary?
Instead of shooting for the moon economically, the city of Richmond should cultivate the great things it already has. Everything does not have to be improved upon. In this case, the so-called improvement looks more like a downgrade in quality.