|Forest Service closes Welcome Center office|
|Written by Scott Graves, Pilot staff writer|
|March 22, 2013 09:37 pm|
The U.S. Forest Service’s visitor services office at the Crissey Field Welcome Center closed Friday, the latest victim of federal budget cuts.
“The federal budget continues to shrink and there’s not enough money to cover everything,” said Bill Blackwell, acting district ranger for the Gold Beach Ranger District.
However, on April 5, the district will have one staff member working out of The Chetco Outdoor Store in Harbor every Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 1:30 to 3 p.m. The employee will hand out tourism information and process forest use permits, Blackwell said.
“That should help people who would otherwise have to drive to the Gold Beach office for such services,” he said.
The Chetco Outdoor Store is located at 16220 W. Hoffeldt Lane. The phone number is 541-469-9151.
The Forest Service has been leasing space at Crissey Field Welcome Center, located just north of the Oregon/California border, since it opened in 2009. It started with a staff of four people, one of whom retired last year and another expected to retire in 18 months, Blackwell said.
The Forest Service staff provides visitors with information and maps, and helps local residents obtain special use permits for firewood, mushrooms, Christmas trees, or other forest products.
The state will continue to provide visitor information services at Crissey Field Welcome Center with its Travel Oregon office.
The Forest Service recently conducted a review of its public service delivery program to identify necessary cost savings, Blackwell said.
Closing the visitor services office “was determined to be the best option to most efficiently provide the highest level of continued service to all customers served by the Gold Beach Ranger District,” he said.
The Forest Service will save an immediate $60,000 a year by closing the Crissey Field office. An additional $60,000 will be saved in about 18 months, when a current staff member retires, Blackwell said.
The Forest Service doesn’t keep track of how many people use services at the Crissey Field office, but the Welcome Center itself recorded about 16,000 visitors last year, he said.
The district, which extends roughly from the California-Oregon border north to the Port Orford area, will continue to operate its Gold Beach office, which is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Forest information and services such as map sales and recreation permits are also available on-line at http://www.fs.usda.gov/rogue-siskiyou .
The Gold Beach Ranger District can be reached at 541-247-3600