County branches into forest recreation rules


County officials inspect an illegal mountain bike ramp during recent field trip.

Hood River County officials are trying to accommodate growing recreational use of public forests while still protecting natural resources.

On Monday, the County Commission will review a draft plan to regulate trail systems on 31,000 acres within its jurisdiction. That hearing will begin at 6 p.m. in the second floor conference room of the county courthouse, 309 State Street.

“This ordinance is just a broad and general start and as trails are developed and recognized it will have to be modified to deal with issues that come up or require an exception,” said Forester Ken Galloway.

He worked with the county’s Forest Advisory Committee to craft the basic framework of the proposed code. The intent of the regulations is to provide tourism opportunities while curbing destructive activities. For example, Galloway said “extreme” mountain bikers are damaging trees by fastening elaborate ramp systems to trunks and branches. In addition, he said the long metal screws used during the construction process endanger harvesters and mill workers since they turn to “shrapnel” when hit by cutting blades. Galloway is also worried about the possibility of serious injuries since some of the makeshift ramps are extremely narrow and built up to 20 feet above the ground, with long jumps in between structures.

Another concern for the county Forestry Department is the unofficial trail blazing that has occurred along the embankments of some fish-bearing streams. Galloway said that action has created an erosion hazard and filled the waters with sediment during heavy rains.

“We see this ordinance as an opportunity to educate trail users about the forest and eliminate these liabilities,” he said.

If the county board adopts the Forest Recreation Trails Ordinance, Galloway said an advisory committee will be set up to select locations for designated trails. The membership of the group will include outdoor sports organizations, including bicyclists, motorcyclists and horseback riders. They will also be tasked with recommending rules for allowable uses in each area.

Galloway is confident that with an official plan in place, the county will be able to score grant funding for trail development. He said those monies could be used to create a map of the trail system to post on the county website:

He said these dollars will also allow warning signs to be posted during extremely dry conditions to prevent fire danger and wet weather to stem erosion from dislodged soil. That signage would also encourage users to protect the trails and the rights and property of adjacent landowners. Eventually, Galloway said enforcement actions and a fine schedule will likely be incorporated into the ordinance.

He said the county is supportive of continued recreation on forest lands — as long sanctioned activities don’t harm the marketable timber that yields an average of $4 million in revenue each year.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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