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Oregon Parks and Recreation Convenes Workshop to Discuss Water Trails

Updated: Jan 13

October 29, 2014—I had the opportunity to participate in Oregon Parks and Recreation’s (OPRD) Oregon Trail Planning Workshop in Salem last night. The purpose of the workshop was to help determine where Oregon should invest funds for new motorized and non-motorized trails. OPRD conducts trail planning every 10 years. I was most interested, of course, in the non-motorized trail portion.

OPRD split the non-motorized trail component into two areas: non-motorized land trails for those who hike, ride horses, snowshoe, and cross-country ski, and water trails. Regarding water trails, OPRD was interested in trying to identify the best places to paddle, specifically in Region 3, which encompasses Marion, Polk, and Yamhill counties; the state will be going to 10 other regions around the state to get input from citizens in those regions about which trails they would like to see the state designate and fund.

OPRD staff showed a brief PowerPoint slideshow of what the most popular trail uses were with the public and vendors who businesses rely on the public use of those trails and the issues those same vendors see impacting the trails. With water trails, the state took it one step further. Not only was OPRD looking at water trails, it also was looking at what body of water to designate as a scenic waterway.

The federal government requires the state to identify a scenic waterway every three years. A scenic waterway is one that:

  • can’t be dammed,

  • is free flowing, and

  • doesn’t impact landowners.

The Siletz River (above photo) was the number one river boaters around the state chose in a survey for scenic waterway designation. That differed from the river those in the breakout following the slideshow chose. The most widely chosen river in Region 3 by the workshop participants was the North Santiam River, followed by the South Santiam River.

One of the slides shown displayed preliminary results of the fee the Oregon State Marine Board has proposed that non-motorized boaters pay to fund facilities and education and safety programs for non-motorized boaters. The outcome was somewhat surprising. Though results showed many non-motorized boaters either opposed or somewhat opposed paying a fee, far more non-motorized boaters supported paying a fee of $10–$15.

During the breakout session, participants congregated at any of the four trail stations around the room they had an interest in having some input. The stations represented water, non-motorized, OHV, and snowmobile trails in Region 3. Each station had boards showing funding and management issues. OPRD staff asked participants to place three dots next to what they considered the top funding issues and three dots next to the top management issues. The major management issues the group identified were:

  • increased access for non-motorized boats and

  • lack of funding for non-motorized facilities.

The major funding issues the majority identified were:

  • public access,

  • parking for car without trailers, and

  • restrooms.

OPRD staff then asked participants to place three dots next to their choices for water trail designation and three dots next to their choices for scenic waterway designation. The three choices for water trail designation were South and North Santiam Rivers and the Yamhill River. Though Beaver Creek is in Region 1 and wasn’t listed, I requested that OPRD staff suggest the creek for both water trail and scenic waterway designation.

We’ll have to wait and see what happens next after participants in the 10 other regions have a chance to offer their input.

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