County pursues grant to purchase Punchbowl property

102-acre area in Dee currently owned by Western Rivers Conservancy

Western Rivers Conservancy owns 102 acres along Punchbowl Falls near Dee that it wishes to sell to Hood River County for development as a public park. At left, a map, with north at the top, shows the land WRC owns. The photo at right is an aerial view, looking south, of the same parcel.

Western Rivers Conservancy
Western Rivers Conservancy owns 102 acres along Punchbowl Falls near Dee that it wishes to sell to Hood River County for development as a public park. At left, a map, with north at the top, shows the land WRC owns. The photo at right is an aerial view, looking south, of the same parcel.

There are plenty of options in the Gorge for a summer swim, but Punchbowl Falls on the West Fork of the Hood River near Dee is a favorite of many.

The 10-foot-high waterfall is framed by pillars of columnar basalt, providing perfect diving platforms from which intrepid swimmers leap and splash into the plunge pool below. Those less interested in thrill-seeking can enjoy the beach and swimming hole located approximately a quarter-mile downstream at the confluence of the West and Middle forks of the Hood River.

And if all goes well, the land might become the county’s newest public park.

Hood River County is currently seeking a grant from Oregon State Parks to help purchase 102 acres of land along Punchbowl Falls from Western Rivers Conservancy — a Portland nonprofit that currently owns the land and is more than willing to sell.

During Monday’s meeting of the Hood River County Commissioners, WRC Vice President Phil Wallin said his organization would sell the land to the county at half its appraised value of $1.1 million so that it can be developed as a park for the public to enjoy.

“It would be good if it were a county park because it’s kind of an iconic place for Hood River Valley,” he told commissioners, “and most people have been there and enjoyed it and it would be nice to think that it was going to be protected for their kids.”

Wallin said WRC’s sole role is to acquire “the most outstanding rivers in the western United States” for conservation purposes. WRC bought 20 of its 102 acres along Punchbowl Falls from Longview Timber in 2006 and the remainder from PacifiCorp in 2010 for the purpose of preserving the land for public access.

In addition, Wallin said the area around Punchbowl was “incredible” fish habitat and described the steelhead as “some big honkers” in that section of the river.

“To me, the cool thing about it is you’ve got a deeply incised river bottom and then you’ve got nice, public, day-use access, day-use area up on top that doesn’t really impinge,” he said. “So, you could kind of have a combination of habitat protection and public use and that’s, to me, exactly what we want to see. We want to see land use for fish wildlife and people.”

Wallin suggested the county apply for a $550,000 Oregon State Parks grant to purchase the land from WRC and offered to set up a development and maintenance fund for the proposed park.

This is not the first time WRC has tried to sell the land to the county. Wallin said during the meeting that the county has been denied the grant three times over the past few years for different reasons.

“We’re hoping the fourth year is the charm,” he said.

Heidi Ochsner in Hood River County Administration reported that the outcome of the county’s grant request would likely be known by this summer.

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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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