Task Force collaborations helping reopen parks for summer activities
With pandemic-related travel restrictions beginning to lift and the summer vacation season officially underway, Oregonians are justifiably eager to get back to their favorite recreation spots. Travelers need to be prepared for changes to many of the state’s iconic scenic areas and waterways that were severely damaged by last year’s wildfires.
While many parks and scenic areas remain closed due to ongoing safety concerns, the Debris Management Task Force (Task Force) is working with federal, state and local agencies and private organizations to safely reopen some of the state’s most popular recreation sites as quickly as possible.
“The public, and the local community and the visitors, [we] all crave normalcy,” empathizes Ed Alverson, Natural Areas Coordinator for Lane County Parks. “We’ve had so many things happen in our world in the last year or two, and one thing that we can do is we can open up the rivers so people can recreate.”
Alverson has been overseeing the wildfire cleanup and recovery efforts in Lane County natural areas including Forest Glen County Park, a popular McKenzie River boat access that was badly damaged in the Holiday Farm Fire along the western slope of the Cascades.
As Alverson explains, the park was left with “a number of hazard trees (trees that are likely to die in the next few years) that really needed to be removed if we were going to be able to continue to use the park.”
Through a collaborative process between the state and Lane County, Task Force crews were able to prioritize cleanup operations in the park, clearing the hazard trees to enable county officials to open the boat access in time for Memorial Day weekend.
“Lane County parks is a pretty small organization,” Alverson said. “We don’t have a lot of staff and we don’t have a lot of capacity to respond to these major events. So, by being able to tap into the Task Force process, we’ve been able to take advantage of all of the equipment and the staff and the expertise that have been brought to the region to work on removing these hazard trees.”
Alverson advises that the river “looks really different; it’s not the same place.”
He is part of a team that has been evaluating how the fire will affect boating, fishing and paddling on the river this season. In a statement released in advance of reopening the park, they encouraged river users to understand that while “relatively few burned trees have fallen into the river at this time, it is likely that dead and dying trees will continually fall and create new obstructions with each passing storm, high water event, and even over the next five to eight years to come.” Boaters should proceed carefully, as if they were navigating a river entirely new to them.
Visitors are also reminded to be respectful of residents and private property. Do not trespass to access the river, and do not photograph destroyed structures or property without the owner’s permission.
Task Force crews are working daily to remove hazard trees and stabilize steep slopes at multiple locations along Highway 126 adjacent to the McKenzie River. Boaters are encouraged to use extreme caution and never exit the river in a work zone. Travelers should expect long delays with multiple work areas along Highway 126. Take alternate routes if possible.
For additional information specific to Lane County parks and boat accesses, visit www.lanecounty.org/parks.