Trail reopens, with new view

Hood River County Forestry still has some “finishing touches” to do in the area, but for the most part operations on the Clematis Timber Sale are complete.

If the name Clematis (a type of flower) doesn’t ring a bell, try Seven Streams. The popular single-track trail just outside downtown Hood River follows Post Canyon Creek, crossing it several times, before tying in to the greater network of trails that make up the HRCF’s Northwest Trails Area.

The Clematis Timber Sale was a clear-cut cable logging operation on close to 80 acres of sloped terrain, the bottom of which the creek and trail wind through. The sale was fast-tracked by the county this year as a response to extensive damage the acreage suffered in the January 2012 ice storm.

“Logging and the removal of wood phase is complete,” said Doug Thiesies, HRCF manager. “The sale isn’t officially closed yet, but there are only a few finishing touches that remain.”

As soon as they were allowed, trail adopters and volunteers were hard at work clearing debris and repairing damage to the trail, and are credited for the speed at which hikers, bikers, joggers, dog walkers and other users have returned to the area.

From the official Seven Streams staging area (about a mile up Post Canyon Road), the trail appears unchanged by the logging operation. Around the first corner, however, the scenery changes drastically to scarred earth, bald hillsides and splintered remnants of a formerly peaceful creekside landscape.

The sight is dramatic and disheartening, but serves as an important reminder of how timber counties generate revenue. In the case of Hood River County, revenue from “tree farms” accounts for about one third of the county’s annual General Fund, which is used to pay for a variety of public services and personnel. At close to two million board feet, the Clematis sale was expected to bring the county more than half a million dollars.

On a walkthrough last fall of a proposed trail, Thiesies summarized HRCF’s philosophy in balancing forest management with increasing recreational demands of the public: “What the county needs in order for this to work is the public’s understanding that this is a tree farm that generates revenue for the General Fund. Managing that is our top priority. It’s great to have people out here enjoying the land in a healthy way, but they need to know that trails are going to get disturbed or destroyed from time to time by logging operations.”

Thiesies said road work and burning of slash piles are the two main tasks that remain on the project and that the wood and debris on the slopes (other than the slash piles) and in the creek and buffer zone (riparian management area) will be left as is.

“We had proposed removing some of the large wood and material from the creek, but Fish and Wildlife said to leave it where it is,” he said. “For the most part, the material that remains there is what fell during the ice storm. It might look messy, but it’s a forest environment and things will melt into the landscape over time. There will be a lot of change in that environment over the next several years.”

Between now and the end of summer, little will change with the clear-cut. Slash will be burned in the late fall and the entire area will be treated with herbicide as a way to stunt the growth of bushes and underbrush that compete for water and sunlight with tree saplings, which will be planted in the spring of 2014.

n HRCF is working with volunteer trail builders on a new trail proposed for the opposite side of Post Canyon Creek that will roughly parallel Seven Streams. The new trail is planned as a downhill route that will help relieve heavy traffic on Seven Streams. Thiesies said the project is still in the planning phase but the concept has been approved by the trails committee and has a good chance of being constructed sometime this year if things go smoothly.

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