The Steens Mountain Wilderness Resort was bought by Mark Webb for about $200,000. He got 16 acres, a mobile home, eight cabins and a whole lot of work necessary to upgrade after years of neglect. // Photo courtesy Steens Mountain Wilderness Resort
Mark Webb remembers loving Harney County as a kid. His parents would park their RV at the Steens Mountain Wilderness Resort outside of Frenchglen (population 12) and spend their summers in close proximity to wild horses and antelope. The big nighttime attraction was looking up at the stars.
Webb, now 53, went on to become an accountant in Nampa, Idaho, and then purchased a fixer-upper RV campground in Weiser. He continued visiting the Steens as regularly as possible and continued bringing his mother to the resort each summer after his father died several years ago. During one of those trips he learned that the Steens property was available — for $1.6 million.
That price fell dramatically as the former owners ran into financial difficulties and decided to hold onto a huge nearby cabin that was originally part of the package. “We offered a little over $200,000, and they accepted it,” says Webb. Not bad for 16 acres surrounded by some of the finest wildlife viewing country in Oregon, with a mobile home, an office building, eight cabins, showers and a laundromat.
But the property was nowhere near as pristine as the surroundings. Since closing the deal last fall, Webb and his uncle have been working long days; replacing worn out beds, gutting and rebuilding showers, and replacing ruined pipes after years of neglect.
“Pretty much every one of the cabins froze up over the winter,” Webb says. When he went to tour the property prior to buying it, a hunter was gutting an antelope carcass right in the middle of the resort.
The plan is to modernize the resort bit by bit. Webb recently brought in Wi-Fi service for the first time, and he eventually intends to build new log cabins. But not until the numbers add up; his accounting background taught him to hold off on capital expenses until he’s positive he can afford them — and to do as much as possible with his own hands.
It’s a strategy that has served him well. Webb spent 13 years turning the rundown RV park in Weiser into a profitable business while working on the side as a CPA. Now he’s taking a similarly methodical approach in the Steens, minus the side-gig in accounting (not a lot of demand for CPAs in antelope country). “It may take us years and years,” he says, “but we’re going to rebuild the whole park.”