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ODOT returns funding for Government Camp rest stop

Good news, travelers.

Come April, you'll still be able to relieve yourself in Government Camp at the only public rest stop between Sandy and Madras.

Officials announced last week the Oregon Department of Transportation has agreed to reallocate funding to keep the rest area open permanently.

Last October, after a town hall discussion, Rep. Mark Johnson, R-Hood River, Sen. Chuck Thomsen, R-Hood River, and Rep. Dave Hunt, D-Gladstone, helped reach a temporary agreement with Clackamas County Tourism and Oregon Travel Experience to keep the Government Camp Rest Area open through March 31, 2012.

Concern about the future of the rest stop had come in September when ODOT announced its plans to close the rest stop, which was costing $7,500 per month in maintenance.

Citizens, community leaders and travelers expressed dismay at the idea of an impending closure last fall.

After the temporary agreement was in place, Johnson, Thomsen and Hunt had each drafted legislation for the 2012 legislative session to keep the rest area open indefinitely.

But last week, ODOT came to the House Transportation and Economic Development Committee, which Hunt co-chairs, to say it was ready to commit right now to keeping the rest stop open.

'It's a faster solution,' Hunt said. 'They underestimated how many people use it -- how important it is to so many people.

'Now we can have a longer, less pressured conversation about how to improve those facilities and we're not under the gun of a threatened closure.'

Though Hunt is not the legislative representative for Government Camp, he had received calls and emails spanning from Bend to Portland.

While keeping the rest stop going was backed with bipartisan support, Johnson is not convinced that simply having ODOT reallocate funding creates a long-term solution for the rest stop.

He said he will continue with legislation he's crafted that would continue a public-private partnership and allow for a 'more quality' rest stop.

'During these challenging times, policymakers must develop creative solutions to sustain public services,' Johnson said in an earlier statement about the rest stop.