The little rest area at Government Camp on Highway 26 is growing up. Since OTE assumed supervision of the small A-frame building, regular commuters and visitors will note many improvements by our onsite team. Rest area team members John Garmon and Barry Reed have barely been able to catch their breath since initiating the refurbishment project in 2012.
“Looking back at our first year in operation at Government Camp, the big improvements are pretty noticeable to anyone who has been here on a regular basis,” said Garmon. “The small improvements are almost too many to list.”
Within the first few months, Garmon and Reed painted the exterior of the a-frame, covered (and repeatedly covered) graffiti tags on the walls, filled potholes and restriped the parking lot, and created designated parking for disabled permit holders. The duo installed new pet-waste stations, recycling containers, and trail map information. A plan was implemented to reduce the amount of after-hours refuse and frequent vandalism that seemed to plague the stop.
“We take pride in keeping our restrooms clean for the hundreds of people that use the area daily,” said Garmon. “It’s a constant battle to ensure the plumbing remains working properly. Sometimes we only have three minutes to clean before the next group of visitors arrive.”
In a recent restroom “incident,” Garmon noticed a wobbly toilet that appeared to have a broken flange. However, once he removed the toilet, it was evident there would be plenty of dirty work ahead of him.
“The tile around the toilet had been floating on a layer of grey water slime for a very long time,” Garmon noted. “I replaced about a yard of tile and applied fresh grout, sealer and caulking around the base of the toilet. It wasn’t the nastiest job I’ve ever done, but I think it made the top 10!”
Garmon explained that Government Camp rest area has a unique set of challenges—it’s location in the heart of a recreational and ski-resort territory on Mt. Hood make it particularly busy. Tour buses, skiers, snowboarders, hikers, and visitors on their way up the mountain use the rest area constantly as a central stopping point.
“We installed counters last fall,” said Garmon, “and for the first time, we actually can tell how busy we really get. Over Christmas break we counted several days when there were 3,500 visitors—and over 45,000 users passed through our doors in one month! Even though I’ve worked and lived near Mt. Hood for 14 years, I would never have guessed that many people stop to use the rest area.”
Garmon was enthusiastic about the data collected. The numbers show that Government Camp hosted more visitors than some of the nearby ski resorts. “I think that’s pretty impressive!” said Garmon.
Into the light of day
Garmon and Reed recently finished constructing a small office within the rest area building. As part of OTE’s rest area model, teams work from onsite field-offices, providing complete accessibility for the public. Garmon and Reed had been using a storage closet as their office—sharing the space with brooms, and mechanical and electrical equipment. The old “office” was not conducent to public access, especially if a motorist needed immediate help from OTE’s team. However, budget was on everyone’s minds—so Garmon and Reed chose the most cost-effective plan for a small but functional office.
“We wanted to build something that blended in with the rest of the building and looked welcoming to the public,” said Garmon. “So many visitors have questions for us about where to go and what to see while they’re on the mountain, so this was an important public service step to take.”
Now that the team has completed the office, they’re gearing up for a season of sunshine. “As the deep snow begins to melt, we’re looking forward to another summer of new and continued improvement projects,” said Garmon.
Reed and Garmon hope that travelers will be pleasantly surprised with Government Camp’s transformation—and stop by to say hello to the team.