On January 4th, a massive storm ripped through the Rogue Valley, leaving downed branches, broken fences and destruction in its wake. Unfortunately, the Medford Urban Campground endured severe damage, including torn tents, canopies and sleeping bags.“The campground suffered a traumatic weather event,” said Donnie Harper, who manages the Navigation Center. “The storm destroyed the campground, which houses an average of 85 individuals at all times,” said Alex Spray, Site Manager at the Medford Urban Campground. The campground has 87 sites — 67 tent sites and 20 rigid tents, and they use carport canopies to cover the tents. There are 35 canopies, and the storm destroyed all but four of them.
The storm impacted about 59 campground guests. Afterward, Rogue Retreat identified the Navigation Center as having extra space to temporarily house the campground guests while their shelters were fixed. They were hoping to stay there for about five days, but it was longer due to shipping delays. However, while the Navigation Center offered shelter, it wasn’t a perfect solution. “A lot of campground guests do not like to be indoors and choose the campground for a reason,” Harper explained. “For some people, they don’t fit in well at the Navigation Center because they like the extra freedom the campground offers.”
During this transitionary period, different organizations and volunteers united to help the campground guests. Many community partners came directly to the Navigation Center to offer resources for those who were struggling. Additionally, numerous volunteers donated food and prepared meals. “One of our volunteers — a lady named Miss Linda — increased her donations from once a week to 2-3 times a week,” he said.
The City of Medford also stepped in and offered support by making arrangements to procure new canopies, tents, and the mesh around the privacy fence. “The City jumped in feet first as they always do, and we really appreciate that,” Harper said. With help from the city, community partners and volunteers, the campground guests were able to return to their shelters at the campground. “We got a generous donation to help rebuild the camp. The city allowed us to stay at the Kelly Shelter and the Medford Livability Team came out the moment I called them to help transport the guests from our campground to the Navigation Center,” said Spray.
Additionally, St. Vincent de Paul bought canopies, Medford Gospel Mission collected and dropped off blankets, and the community donated food, clothes, blankets and sleeping bags. “So many people have reached out to help our guests and donated their time and resources. We appreciate it all,” Spray said. The destructive weather impacted many people, but Rogue Retreat took this as an opportunity to fix any previous issues with the campground. “We knew we would have to make changes to the campground eventually, and the storm allowed us to see the holes we needed to fill,” Harper said. It also brought the organization closer together. “We’re all in this as a team and we help one another,” he added.