County hears concerns over recreation impacts

Rescue costs putting strain on Sheriff’s Department resources

oregon trail rally was a topic of discussion at Monday’s County Commission meeting, both in terms of its impact on local residents and roads and its contributions to the local economy.

File photo by Adam Lapierre
oregon trail rally was a topic of discussion at Monday’s County Commission meeting, both in terms of its impact on local residents and roads and its contributions to the local economy.

Hood River County’s economy is driven by tourism and outdoor recreation, but during Monday night’s Board of County Commissioners meeting, department heads raised concerns over how some types of recreation are having a negative impact on county resources.

During the pre-meeting work session, Hood River County Sheriff Matt English and Deputy Chris Guertin brought up how numerous search and rescue operations this year have put a heavy strain on an already thin department. Guertin said lost hikers on Eagle Creek this year have consumed far too much of the Sheriff’s Department’s time and budget and Guertin recommended improving signage on the popular trail located right near the western boundary of Hood River County.

“Eagle Creek is a large share of our rescues,” he told the board Monday evening. “I’d like to shave them off as much as possible. It uses a lot of resources.”

English agreed and said this season has been exceptionally busy for recreational rescues.

“This summer is non-stop,” he said. “We’re averaging two to three search and rescues every weekend. We’re working seven days a week and most of the rescues are on the weekend.”

Guertin also spoke of how he was “frustrated” with the recent deaths and injuries at Punchbowl Falls and mentioned the cost involved with rescuing injured or stranded climbers on Mount Hood. He reported that during a recent rescue of Polish soldier Sebastian Kinasiewicz, which eventually turned into a recovery effort, $700 was spent on food and water for search and rescue personnel.

A discussion was then held between the sheriff’s officers and commissioners on how best to deal with recouping rescue costs. Ideas raised included sending bills for rescue operations to climbers that were hiking irresponsibly or requiring all Mount Hood climbers to wear emergency locator beacons. Board of Commissioners Chair Ron Rivers said something needed to be done and suggested having a joint commission meeting with the Clackamas County, as a large majority of Mount Hood rescues occur there as well.

“If you’re going to recreate, recreate responsibly,” he said. “And we have a fiduciary responsibility to this county.”

Next on the agenda were County Forestry Manager Doug Thiesies and County Engineer Don Wiley, who wished to discuss the impact rally car races were having on county dirt and gravel roads and residents.

The county started allowing the races to occur on forest roads approximately 10 years ago, but Thiesies noted that “since 2009, we’ve had more events, national events. We’ve had some neighbors that have voiced concerns. We’ve started to see more wear and tear on the roads.”

Over the years, the event has grown bigger, with 500-600 spectators watching races that feature upwards of 70 cars. Usually, races are held on county forestlands in April and October, with a staging area in Odell.

“This is the first year we really had people complaining about it,” Wiley said. “We’re wondering if it’s still appropriate to have this on forestlands.”

Thiesies and Wiley then showed a YouTube video of one of the races, with compact Subarus, Hondas, and other vehicles tearing around dirt and gravel roads, spraying stone and dust everywhere to the delight of spectators. Wiley said the county charges race organizers $400 per mile of track in restoration fees but that the cost of rock has risen to the point that the county will have to charge a significantly higher amount to resurface the roads. Wiley believed the asking number would be too high for the rally organizers to consider and the races would leave Hood River County.

During the public comment period, Matthew Swihart, owner of Double Mountain, said he lived in Odell and has learned to deal with the noise of the races, but also mentioned how the races were good for local businesses.

“The weekend the rally was in town was an exceptionally busy weekend for my restaurant,” he noted.

Rivers said it was up to Wiley and Thiesies to decide whether to charge high resurfacing fees, keep the number the same, or disallow the races entirely.

“Get your pencils sharpened and come up with a number,” he advised. “You’re either going to have to nip this in the bud or let it go.”

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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 www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



Comments

Steve says...

Requiring climbers and other folks using the back country to carry a SPOT locator. Mine cost ~$100 (the latest retails for $149), the service is about $100/year, and for an additional $12.95/year you can join GEOS. GEOS membership will insure you for up to $100,000 in rescue fees. So, once you have the SPOT, its ~$116/year to make sure you can cover the cost of your own rescue... and SPOT will tell the rescue team right where you are every 5 minutes by satellite. Imagine how much money and time and lives would be saved if this were a mandatory requirement?

Posted 22 August 2013, 12:58 p.m. Suggest removal

Steve says...

I own a SPOT satellite locator. It cost $100 (the latest version is $150 retail). Service is $100/year. For an additional $13/year, I can join GEOS. That membership will reimburse rescuers up to $100,000 if they have to come find me. I think these devices should be mandatory for those traveling into the wilderness or climbing mountains. If someone does have to find you, they will know where you are within a few feet. If you are dead, the locator still transmits your last location until the batter dies (days). Think how many lives, effort, and cost could be saved if devices like these were mandatory.
Steve

Posted 22 August 2013, 6:35 p.m. Suggest removal

Steve says...

I own a SPOT satellite locator. It cost $100 (the latest version is $150 retail). Service is $100/year. For an additional $13/year, I can join GEOS. That membership will reimburse rescuers up to $100,000 if they have to come find me. I think these devices should be mandatory for those traveling into the wilderness or climbing mountains. If someone does have to find you, they will know where you are within a few feet. If you are dead, the locator still transmits your last location until the batter dies (days). Think how many lives, effort, and cost could be saved if devices like these were mandatory.
Steve

Posted 22 August 2013, 6:35 p.m. Suggest removal

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