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Oregon Tree House Attraction Under Fire

For a state that advertises itself as counterculture and cool, Oregon sure has its share of humorless, goony local governments. Similar to the battle between The Funny Farm and der regulators of Bend, the owner of the unique Out 'N' About Tree House Resort is being hounded by Josephine County commissioners.

Michael Garnier has operated his bed and breakfast tree house in Takilma, about 30 miles southwest of Grants Pass, since 1990. But regulators are demanding he tear down his source of livelihood unless he can show it is safe and doesn't violate zoning laws, and are taking him to court. The trial begins July 2.

Since gracing the cover of Peter Nelson's "Tree houses, the Art and Craft of Living out on a Limb," in 1994, Garnier's fame has spread, making some locals jealous of his success. Last year, he was also in Fodor's, "Nights to Imagine, Magical Places to Stay in America," by Peter Guttmann.

Twenty feet up, the first tree house Garnier built is just big enough for a double bed, a small sink and a chamber pot inside. Bigger is the Swiss Family Complex, which has one room for parents and another for the kids, connected by a swinging bridge. The Treepee is a teepee in a tree and the Treeroom School House has a curved deck, sweeping staircase, and a claw-footed bathtub.

In 1994, the county ordered Garnier to tear them down. The first tree house was built without permits, and without a concrete foundation. But Garnier piled 10,847 pounds of friends and neighbors into his original tree house to show how sturdy it was.

Then, in his next attempt to placate his tormentors, Garnier stopped charging guests, instead making them "Tree Musketeers" by selling them Treeshirts for $ 75 to $ 125 a night. To overcome the zoning problem, Garnier created the Out 'N' About Tree House Institute and Treesort, where students can learn the latest tree house technology.

But the court date still looms. As author Guttman says, "I think this is one of those examples where soulless gray bureaucrats do their utmost to stamp out individuality and creativity."

Fred Borngasser, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, gave their side of the story. "What we feel we have an obligation to do in the county is follow the rules."

300 Page Creek Rd., Cave Junction, OR
Eleven miles south of Cave Junction on Page Creek Rd.
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