TENMILE — About 25 trees at Iverson Memorial Park were casualties of February’s snowstorm, but Douglas County Parks Director Rocky Houston told members of the Friends of Iverson Memorial Park he doesn’t anticipate any more trees than those being removed from the park.
It’s a message the Friends were glad to hear as they surveyed the storm damage with Houston at the park Thursday afternoon. Iverson is a 33-acre, heavily wooded, largely undeveloped park off Coos Bay Wagon Road near Tenmile that provides opportunities for peaceful walks through nature. Those who love the park had long feared the county would clear-cut part or all of it as was done to nearby Busenbark Park in 2015.
The Busenbark logging, which occurred before Houston was hired, was a spark that ignited a struggle between park supporters and the county government over the future of the county’s parks. Bumper stickers and protest signs declaring “Remember Busenbark” subsequently became popular among opponents of logging in the parks. Busenbark lost its park status when it was reclassified as forestland in 2018.
Early versions of the Douglas County Parks Master Plan suggested Iverson and three other “passive” parks might be on the chopping block too — either commercially logged or sold — but that didn’t make it into the final plan approved in 2016. Houston assured Friends members the county does not plan to log Iverson.
“My goal is not to clear-cut the parks. That’s like cutting off your leg to save your toe,” Houston said.
Some of the downed trees fell across a trail that goes into the woods, and the Friends and Houston discussed whether it would be better to sell the downed trees as timber or as firewood. Some of the Friends suggested it didn’t matter to them either way, but they’d like the revenue to go toward park improvements such as a picnic table. Francis Eatherington suggested trees that fell across a stream in the park be left for fish habitat. Some suggested one of the logs be placed as a barrier between the parking lot and the lawn area, which bore the recent tracks left by a vandal spinning a vehicle on it.
Houston said thousands of trees fell on county properties following the storm, and the Douglas County Parks Department has submitted paperwork with the Oregon Department of Forestry for salvage operations to remove hazard trees at county parks. Most of those trees will likely be sold as firewood, he said. A hazard tree is one that’s in danger of falling on a structure, a vehicle or a place such as an overlook where people tend to congregate. Since there’s no structure and only a small parking lot at the entrance to Iverson, there’s not much that falls under that category there, Houston said. He said a thorough assessment of the damage at Iverson hasn’t been completed, and if hazard trees are identified they could be cut, but there’s no plan to cut any non-hazard trees.
Pat Quinn urged Houston to mark hazard trees slated to be cut at county parks.
Houston said the county is liable to pay damages if a tree or branch falls and injures a park visitor or the visitor’s property, and marking a tree might increase the county’s liability risk.
“You generally don’t put a flashing light next to bad stuff,” he said.
But Quinn said if people were notified that hazard trees had been marked and then a dot of orange paint was put on each one, concerned members of the public could go out and look at the trees and wouldn’t fear that the county planned a logging operation at a park.
“At least this way you could say, ‘We have gone the extra mile for transparency,’” Quinn said.
The city of Myrtle Creek recently landed in the middle of a controversy over fee waivers at the Douglas County landfill.
Myrtle Creek officials said they canceled the city’s annual community cleanup because they could not obtain a fee waiver to deposit the trash at the county landfill. After they posted a press release to that effect March 22 on Facebook, Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman took the city to task in a commissioner meeting Wednesday, objecting to what he said was the city blaming the county for canceling its event.
Freeman said the city never contacted him to request a waiver, even though he is chairman of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners. He said the first he heard of it was when he saw the Facebook post.
Myrtle Creek City Manager Sean Negherbon said Myrtle Creek Public Works Director Quinn Pickering sent a letter March 12 to Douglas County Public Works Director Scott Adams, who until recently had the authority to approve or deny waivers. A filled-out fee waiver request form was attached to the letter. Negherbon supplied a copy of the letter and waiver request to The News-Review. Negherbon said the city subsequently received a phone call from Douglas County Commissioner Chris Boice, who said they could not obtain a fee waiver.
The Douglas County Board of Commissioners had removed Adams’s authority to give fee waivers Feb. 20. It also suspended all fee waivers in the wake of criticism over Adams’s approval of a waiver allowing the Hanna family to deposit $50,000 worth of demolished remains from the Windmill Inn into the landfill for free. Opponents of the decision characterized the Hanna waiver as a gift to a good ol’ boy friend of the commissioners. Bruce Hanna and Freeman served together in the legislature, and Freeman has received campaign contributions from him.
Freeman said Myrtle Creek shouldn’t blame the county since it was free to go ahead with the event and pay the costs itself. Negherbon said the city never claimed the county canceled its event.
“We never said they canceled it. We canceled it,” Negherbon said.
There were two versions of the Myrtle Creek press release posted to Facebook, both dated March 22. The second was longer and included a paragraph explicitly stating, “The decision to cancel this event was made by the City of Myrtle Creek. If the situation changes this event may be rescheduled later in the year.”
Both said the city was canceling or postponing its cleanup “due to a denial of the fee waiver.” Myrtle Creek City Recorder Joshua Norton said the press release was changed after Boice called to complain about the first version, which had also included a county phone number as a contact number.
Negherbon said five dump trailer loads of garbage were brought to the landfill after last year’s cleanup, along with 56 tires and 11 refrigerators. He estimated the dump fees would have been about $717.
“That number just doesn’t come out of thin air. We’d have to take that money from another service that we provide,” Negherbon said.
Freeman said he is looking into the possibility of asking a non-binding question on a countywide ballot to obtain public input about how fee waivers should be handled.
“I think this might be one of those questions we should ask as many people as possible,” he said in an email. “Once I figure out the process I will ask the board for their thoughts and possible approval.”
Adoptable dogs from Saving Grace Pet Adoption Center will be heading out on field trips next week as the shelter is part of a nationwide study.
On Tuesday, five dogs will be heading out into the community, five more dogs will be going on trips Wednesday.
Arizona State University is conducting research at 100-shelters to see how fostering programs affect dogs, shelter staff and volunteers.
“Foster programs of any length help reduce stress for dogs in kennels and provide them with enrichment and increased their visibility in the community with potential adopters,” according to a press release sent by Saving Grace.
“Similar programs at shelters across the country have been enormously successful,” Saving Grace Executive Director Wendy Kang said. “We are excited to introduce this in our community.”
Volunteers are asked to provide insight into the dog’s personality and behavior after the field trip, which can be anything from a hike to an afternoon nap.
Dogs will wear a vest that reads “Adopt Me” and will leave the shelter with a supply bag, which includes treats, leashes, seatbelt connector, litter bags and a water bowl.
“We want the process to be simple, easy and fun,” kennel manager Rachael Daniel said.
Maddie’s Fund, a national foundation established to revolutionize the status and well-being of companion animals, is funding the study.
“As one of the 100 animal shelters participating, they’re helping us understand about how field trips, like the Fido Field Trip program, affect dogs awaiting adoption as well as the staff and volunteers at these shelters,” said Dr. Lisa Gunter, Maddie’s Fund Research Fellow in the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University. “We’re grateful for progressive organizations like Saving Grace Pet Adoption Center that are willing to implement new fostering programs and collect data about these programs, so that we can learn how to better the lives of dogs in animal shelters.”
To volunteer for programs such as the Fido field trips, apply online at www.savinggrace.info.