FAIRPOINT - Every summer since 1977, Belmont County has seen a large influx of campers owned by thousands of fans flocking to Jamboree In The Hills.
The country music fans always leave the area in a matter of days. But new, more permanent campsites are now springing up throughout the county in places like Fairpoint because hundreds of natural gas pipeliners are bringing their RVs into the area. These workers are building the infrastructure needed to transport gas drawn from eastern Ohio and northern West Virginia to market. Some come with their spouses and children, while others travel alone.
"These RV parks are popping up everywhere," said Mark Esposito, director of the Belmont County Sanitary Sewer District. "We tell our people to give quick evaluations of these sites when they see them. If we find somebody who does not have proper connections, we give them notice. We have found several that did not meet our specifications."
Photo by Casey Junkins
Camper sites for natural gas pipeliners are popping up throughout Belmont County.
Last week, the village of Belmont decided to enforce a 2002 ordinance to prevent campers from being set up on properties within the community. Those who had already moved their campers into Belmont have six months to vacate the premises. However, there are many places outside the village that are allowing campers to be installed.
A ride along Ohio 9 through Fairpoint Monday revealed a small campsite right along the road, while a sign inviting those interested in living at a campsite to contact the property owner was also posted near the route.
At the Fairpoint campsite, Esposito said the landowner had tapped into the county water system but did not have a proper flowback prevention system to prevent potential problems for Belmont County.
"This could have contaminated our water system," Esposito said.
After the sewer district notified the property owner, the owner corrected the problem so that he now meets all requirements.
"As long as they have the flowback preventer and a meter, they meet our specifications," he said.
With more property owners looking to make money by operating campsites for the pipeliners, Esposito knows the county will probably continue to see more of these temporary establishments.
"There are not many regulations if you have four or fewer campers on a site. If you are going to have more than that, you have to go through the permitting process," he said of county and state health regulations.
Some of the water systems at the sites are fairly primitive, as Esposito said he has seen instances in which a property owner will try to get by with simply hooking up a garden hose to a faucet to send water to the campers.
"I don't have a problem with it, but you probably don't want to see a bunch of garden hoses all over the place if you live in a nice neighborhood," he said.
One area that Esposito said has not been a problem at all is the large campsite near Union Local High School, just off Ohio 149 in Morristown.