In a split vote last week, the Blaine County commissioners voted to block a camp for children with cancer from opening in Triumph, a tiny village near Ketchum, under pressure from residents concerned the camp would create too much traffic and noise.
Camp Rainbow Gold was started in 1985 by Twin Falls surgeon Dave McClusky to offer children suffering from cancer a chance to be normal and experience the outdoors. One of the first pediatric oncology camps in the nation, it became a model for similar camps all across the country, some of which provide a last chance for a classic childhood experience before kids succumb to a terminal disease.
The camp has run programs in the Wood River Valley for years on private land, and last year organizers thought they’d finally found a permanent location for the camp, even receiving a mega-donation to help jumpstart the site.
The money, though, was tied to the camp obtaining a special zoning permit, since the area was zoned for residential and rural use. The vote by commissioners to reject the permit effectively killed the camp’s dream.
“Unfortunately, in many respects, this application has been politicized to an extent that I haven’t seen in my 15 years hearing land-use applications,” said Commissioner Larry Schoen, whose “no” vote sank the deal. “It’s important to recognize that this is a land-use issue. There’s not one person in this room who doesn’t support Camp Rainbow Gold and the work that they do. But we are here to discuss whether a specific plan, in a specific place, is allowable under our land-use code.”
So Wood River Valley residents care more about esoteric land-use codes and protecting themselves from the minor nuisance of a few cars during the summer months than they do about dying children? We’re not talking about a Walmart superstore here. We’re talking about a camp. For children. Dying from cancer.
Zoning designations get changed all the time for specific projects. The government — and the neighbors — should have worked with the camp to address their concerns. It’s hard for us to believe there wasn’t a solution that could have pleased everyone.
The camp may have been snubbed in the Wood River Valley, but we hope organizers don’t give up.
Here’s an idea: How about the Magic Valley?
The folks who live a little farther south aren’t so hard-nosed when it comes to land issues. Everyone loves their own little private piece of Idaho, of course, but you’ll find fewer no-trespassing signs down here. And maybe some warmer hearts — and neighbors who place a higher value on brightening the lives of sick children.