COMMISSIONERS, STATE PARK OFFICIALS TACKLE MASTER PLAN
By WILLIAM LUNDQUIST
GOLD BEACH Concerns about taking private land off tax rolls, flooding on Garrison Lake, and trees blocking ocean views were expressed by the Curry County Commissioners Wednesday morning during a workshop with state parks officials.
The officials from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department were in Curry County to hold public hearings on the latest draft of the Curry County State Parks Master Plan. They thought it would also be a good time to touch bases with the commissioners.
Parks Planning Manager Kathy Schutt told the commissioners the Port Orford meeting Tuesday night had been well-attended, with about 30 talkative people.
There were not a lot of shy people, she said, adding that they discussed mainly north county issues.
The commissioners were asked if they had additional issues.
Commissioner Lucie La Bont brought up Garrison Lake, where beach access is through a private RV park. The same landowner also controls the old creek bed that used to provide drainage for the lake.
La Bont said a dispute between the landowner and the City of Port Orford is standing in the way of a permanent solution to the flooding problem at the lake.
She said the beach line has changed and she wondered if the site is actually on state property now.
She said she knows the parks department doesnt want to go that far yet, but asked if it could look into purchasing the property.
Schutt asked La Bont if she thought state parks should acquire the land for possible camping or RV use.
La Bont said it might be a way to raise money for state parks. She said a moratorium from the Department of Environmental Quality has prevented the current owner from expanding the RV park.
Commissioner Marlyn Schafer said Crissey Field on the state line would be an ideal site for the state welcome center.
She wondered if the current site across the highway from Harris Beach could be sold to private owners for development.
Schutt said there has been a lot of support to move the center to Crissey Field. The state tourism board also favors the idea. She said there are no plans to sell the old site, however. It may be used for group camping.
Schafer said the schools ran into a lot of public opposition when they proposed buying the site. She said adjacent property owners would also have issues with group camping there.
Harris Beach State Park Manager Cary Sutter said the rest stop has a lot of unauthorized stays now. He said those would be legal if it was a campground.
He said the campground would go near the current welcome center.
The college and high school would have developed land far closer to neighboring properties.
Do you have the money to improve it for camping, and also to improve Crissey Field? said Schafer.
She asked state parks to consider selling the site to pay for moving the welcome center to Crissey Field.
Schutt said the department will have to find a lot of partners, including the Oregon Department of Transportation, to raise the funding needed to make the move.
We would have to do a lot of work to even get to the preliminary drawings on Crissey Field, she said.
Schutt said cost estimates are not included in the master plan because they go out of date. They are included in biennial and six-year plans.
She said it usually takes two or three years before items in the master plan show up in the shorter plans.
Schafer also asked about forest management on view-sites.
Were picking and choosing areas to clear, said Sutter.
He said clearing trees for views is not as simple as it sounds. He said some sites require removal of acres of trees for a clear view of the ocean.
Sutter said it is not the same as logging, because the trees are left on the ground, which provides a breeding ground for insect infestations.
He said he has planned the removal of some dead and dying trees at Loeb Park, and will take out some spruce trees at Whaleshead. He agreed trees in the area have really grown since the early 1970s.
Schutt said the department has been increasing its forestry team to work on areas in the state.
She said they have concentrated on insect-killed trees in the east that posed a fire danger. With that completed, they may be able to start on coastal projects.
I understand you want to see progress on the ground, said Schutt.
Schafer said, Why buy more property you cant maintain? This is a big issue for me.
Sutter said the department is always looking toward the future. He said it once had an opportunity to purchase land by Harris Beach. Now those views have been lost to home development.
Were lucky Sam Boardman purchased the properties he did 60 years ago, he said. Wed be remiss if we didnt take the opportunities.
Schafer said, I dont know how much of my county you need to own. If you own the entire coast and the feds own everything east of the highway, how do we get the money to provide services?
La Bont said Schafer made a good point, but she said some of the sites state parks wants are not on buildable land anyway.
She also asked about the status of Sporthaven Beach. Schutt said her department is under a legislative directive to work with the Port of Brookings Harbor on a way to pay off the loan used to build a revetment to prevent erosion of the beach road and RV park.
Sutter said state parks does not own Sporthaven Beach, but simply has a recreation easement for the beach itself.
He said beyond easements and some permitting authority, the parks department does not own beaches unless it also owns the upland area, as at Harris Beach.
Schutt said the owners of Sporthaven have suggested state parks should own and maintain Sporthaven Beach.
She said she understood there were also some concerns about the Euchre Creek estuary.
La Bont said the watershed councils have been talking about it. She said the estuary is good coho salmon habitat, but the site is not buildable.
Schafer said ranchers use the land and she feared losing that resource.
La Bont said the ranchers may be interested in selling that particular site because they havent been able to do much with it.
Schutt said shed heard the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife may want state parks to acquire the property.
Parks Master Planner Kristen Stallman said she would take comments from the commissioners and public to the parks commission, which would then hold a meeting in Curry County.
After that, she will work with Curry County Planning Director Chuck Nordstrom to repackage the master plan before bringing it back to the county commissioners to finalize.
Schafer said overall, she liked the improvements in the master plan, but knew it would be a long time before they were implemented.
It would be nice to have the money, said Sutter.
Walt Schroeder of Gold Beach, who was a member of the state parks steering committee, said he was ambivalent about the plan.
He said some of the proposals were great, but said he shared Schafers concerns about the parks department taking private land off the tax rolls.
He said the acquisition at Cape Sebastian was a good idea, because it was generating little in taxes.
The proposed Sisters Rock/Frankport site, he said, is worth $4,000 a year in taxes to the county.
Schroeder said if it is purchased by state parks, he would like to see it developed immediately, with a good access road, so it would bring in tourism money.
Schafer felt the purchase price should include the improvement costs.
The parks department may not get the chance to make the purchase, however. Schroeder said the owner of the large home above the site wants it for a private yacht harbor.
Schutt said shed heard another person wanted it for a home site.
Schroeder also made some requests for the master plan. He wanted access for the coast trail at Crook Point.
He also wanted signs to give more information on trails, such as whether they were easy, moderate or difficult.
He commended the parks department on opening up the view at Thunder Cove, but suggested it give more notification before cutting trees.
A member of Coast Watch mistakenly thought a clear-cut operation was being allowed on parks land.
Sutter said, We do need to do more PR work.
Finally, Schroeder suggested the parks department let the port maintain Sporthaven Beach.