By Angela Greenwood

AUBURN (CBS13) — A proposed public campsite in the Auburn area hopes to boost tourism, but locals worry the risk to public safety will come at a high price.

The campgrounds would be built along the American River in the Auburn State Recreation Area, near the city of Cool. In a public open house Tuesday, the California State Park and Recreation Department laid out its plans, which were met with fiery pushback by some residents.

People who live in the area that have concerns are mostly worried about fire dangers and excessive traffic. Other neighbors say the area is the perfect place to invite people outdoors.

Behind a green metal gate and roughly a mile down a winding road near Knickerbocker Creek in the Auburn State Recreation Area are plans to carve out a new campground.

Jim Michaels, senior specialist with the California State Parks and Recreation Department said, “Statewide there’s a huge demand for additional developed campsites.”

At the bottom of the American River just outside the city of Cool, the plans call for a campground complete with 50 campsites and around the clock access. It would be a camper’s paradise.

Auburn resident Keith Kenworthy said, “It’s a great resource. Why keep it to ourselves?”

But it’s more like an invasion of peace for George Alenza, who lives just across the river in Auburn.

“Now to inject all these proposed hundreds of thousands, I don’t know how many people would be coming up. If you build it, they will come,” said Alenza.

Alenza was one of the dozens of residents at a public open house. Many worry about increased traffic in the area, but their main concern is increased wildfire risks.

Alenza said, “Anytime you have a lot of people at campgrounds and fires, there’s always that danger.”

“We’re proposing to help mitigate that risk by doing appropriate vegetation management when we develop new facilities, citing them appropriately,” said Michaels.

Michaels says in addition to the campground, there are also plans to increase day use at the China Bar Trail just off Maidu Road in Auburn. Some residents are all for extra visitors.

Kenworthy said, “It’s good for the community. People eat at our restaurants, they want to move here, they want to spend money in our town.”

A proposed campground to boost recreation that some say is too risky.

State officials say the plans for the campground still need to be finalized and get final approval. If that happens, construction could start sometime next year.

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