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.