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State Park Yurts – How it All Began

Posted by admin on October 3, 2011 in Customer stories with 4 Comments


Many people are curious how the trend of yurt rentals in state parks got started. We thought a blog entry might be a good way to tell the story of how the popularity of yurt rentals and the success of Pacific Yurts in Oregon State Parks became a national phenomenon.

In the summer of 1993 we had a 20 foot diameter yurt on display at the Oregon State Fair and met an inquisitive man that was enamored by our product and company.  The unique structure sparked his imagination. Instead of thoughts of roller coaster rides and cotton candy when leaving the fair this man’s head was spinning with ideas on how he could use yurts. The man’s name was Craig Tutor and he worked for Oregon State Parks as the Northwest Regional Manager.

According to Craig, “Oregon State Parks Department was in a funding crisis and we were looking for ways to be more self sufficient by generating revenue through camping user fees.” Craig set out to convince the Director of Oregon State Parks at the time, Bob Meinen, that cozy yurt rentals would be the ideal way to encourage more people to enjoy the parks along the state’s coastline during the ‘off’ and  ‘shoulder’ seasons. During these seasons the weather on the Oregon coast is less than desirable for tent camping, consequently the parks were underutilized by the public and revenue from campers plunged.

Pacific Yurts at Cape Lookout State Park

The first yurts in Oregon State Parks

Although Craig had convinced Mr. Meinen, he met a lot of resistance from others who thought these ‘round tent things’ didn’t fit with a ‘Western theme’ some perceived was appropriate for Oregon. They felt that tipis or log cabins would be a better fit than Mongolian-style tents. “They wouldn’t hold up to the coastal storms anyway,” was commonly heard.

We provided documentation on our engineered design, fire resistance and much more to help back up Craig’s stance that this could be a viable option. After a few months Craig had convinced enough of the right people that it was worth trying a little experiment. In November of 1993 Oregon State Parks ordered two 14 foot diameter yurts and planned to set them up practically on the beach at Cape Lookout State Park. The idea was to see how they held up to the severe winds and driving rain in addition to getting feedback from the public.

16 foot yurt interior (Jessie M. Honeyman State Park)

The yurts were installed in January of 1994 and with just word-of-mouth advertising the two little rentals steadily gained in popularity.

The yurts didn’t budge in the howling winds and were booking up quickly due to their unique appeal and comfort. People loved the feeling of the round space, abundance of natural light and being close to nature while protected from it. With the combination of earth tone colors and curved design it blended well with the natural environment and proved to ‘fit’ well in Oregon after all. In addition, the minimal site impact of the environmentally friendly structure appealed to conservationists. The success of the ‘yurt experiment’ led to the state parks purchasing fourteen 16 foot diameter yurts in July of 1994, which were installed at several parks scattered along the coastline.

By this point the yurt rentals were starting to get press coverage and reservations continued to do well, so in December of 1995 Oregon State Parks ordered another fifty 16 foot diameter yurts.

The popularity of their yurt rentals exploded and the Pacific Yurts at Oregon State Parks became a national phenomenon with the yurts being reserved for months in advance. Today Oregon State Parks Department has nearly 200 Pacific Yurts in their system, including six deluxe 24 foot diameter yurts, and their original yurts are still in service after being pounded by the coastal weather for nearly eighteen years. Even with all these yurts in the system there is so much public demand that there is still a several month waiting period to reserve many of them. It is a true testament to the strength, durability and popularity of Pacific Yurts.

Deluxe Pacific Yurts

Deluxe Yurts at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park

According to Nation’s Business, they are “the biggest money maker to hit Oregon State Parks since campgrounds were introduced.” In difficult economic times this means more revenue to help keep parks open for the public to enjoy.

Today, nearly half of our nation’s states use Pacific Yurts in their state parks as public rentals, seasonal staff housing, meeting space and more. Our company and product have the trusted reliability and proven durability that state park officials have come to count on.

Pacific Yurt interior

Deluxe yurt interior at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park

  1. Mark M.October 6, 2011 - 2:52 am #1

    This is a great blog post and a testimony that validates your company!

  2. becky kemeryOctober 14, 2011 - 3:53 am #2

    Great blog post, nice to hear the story again.

    I interviewed Craig while I was working on my book “YURTS: Living in the Round.” As we were getting up to leave the restaurant in Salem, Oregon, a couple at the table next to us stopped us.

    “We couldn’t help overhearing you talking about yurts,” they said. “We want you to know that yurts have enabled us to go camping, something we didn’t think we’d be able to do again. We love the yurts!” The man was in a wheelchair.

    I’ve heard this story in other places–because State Park yurts are handicapped accessible, people in wheelchairs are able to enjoy a camping experience that might not be possible otherwise, and do so in comfort.

    Thanks for your work and your vision to make all of this possible!

    becky kemery
    Author of “YURTS: Living in the Round”
    http://www.yurtinfo.org
    http://www.livingintheround.org
    Yurtlady on FB

  3. Jeff C.April 25, 2012 - 11:44 am #3

    This is an awesome story! We just erected our 30′ foot yurt from Pacific Yurts and I can tell you I have wondered many times that the history of the company is.. You have been around for 34 years, so I am sure that it is a good one! You should make a post about how the company started!

    I am one of the few up here in the Adirondacks that has a yurt, in fact I only know of one other one. We documented our installation here:

    http://www.yurtforum.com

    I can’t tell you how much fun this has been and how excited we are to have our own yurt! I wish you guys would show these things off up here to those in power of the state parks. I am sure they would bu just as successful.

  4. Shari WoodburyJanuary 23, 2013 - 8:30 am #4

    Thank you for this great article. We encourage our readers at http://www.campingkddios.com to try yurts out as a great way to enjoy the Oregon coast as a family. I learned a lot from your yurt history.
    Thanks!

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