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Rule updates may affect visitors to mellow Stub Stewart park


More trails spell less trouble at state park near Vernonia

NEWS-TIMES PHOTOThe Oregon Parks and Recreation Department would like to clarify a few things:

That pickup packed with state-park blackberries headed for the market? Turning a profit doesn’t count as “personal use.” Keep it to five gallons per person per day, please.

That’s a lovely six-foot leash attached to that dog, but its owner should remain attached to the other end.

These are two of many proposed changes to Oregon’s 23-page state-park rulebook. Some aren’t yet relevant to Stub Stewart State Park, a relatively quiet park north of Banks, but that could change as visitor numbers grow.

Park manager Justin Parker said the 1,800-acre property has fewer serious incidents than most parks because of its newer facilities, fewer visitors and 25 miles of trails that disperse potential hotheads.

Stub Stewart sells about 225,000 day-use permits and 81,000 campsite reservations each year, Parker said, and those numbers are on the rise. Recently added amenities, such as an 18-hole disc golf course, cross-country ski trails and mountain-bike areas, attract an increasing number of people.

“It’s proportional,” Parker said. “As we have more people, there’ll be more incidents and that means more use, which is what we want — it’s why we’re here.”

The trend continues across ORPD’s 35 management units, said David Solomon, manager of OPRD’s safety and risk division. He said popular coastal parks and those in the Columbia River Gorge are near the top of the list for high visitation and incident reports, while Stub Stewart has less.

“Stub Stewart is a mellow park,” Solomon said. “It’s laid out in such a way that there’s less opportunity for conflict.”

Solomon helps track incident reports from across the state in a constantly-growing-but-always-behind database.

Since it opened in 2007, Solomon said, Stub Stewart has reported at least one vehicle break-in, four bike crashes, 12 damaged vehicles, four vandalism or theft incidents and four horse-related injuries, as well as one fine for shirked parking fees.

As at other parks, the number-one problem at Stub Stewart is failure to display a day-use parking permit. Parker estimated park staff issue about 300 verbal warnings about fee payment every summer.

Oregon state parks’ second-most-common issue is also number two at Stub Stewart: dogs off leash. Parker estimated that between Memorial Day and Labor Day, about 200 visitors are reminded to leash their pets properly.

The proposed rule update closes a loophole that allowed park visitors to attach a six-foot leash to their pet’s collar but then let it wander freely, said Richard Walkoski, OPRD research and communication specialist.

“It now clarifies that someone needs to be hanging onto the other end of that leash,” Walkoski said.

Litter is another common problem, he said.

Most litterbugs dump an ash tray or cigarette butt and leave the scene, Parker said, adding that apple cores and other organic waste are also litter and can attract nuisance animals such as raccoons.

Visitors are first issued a verbal warning for violations. After the next violation, they get a written citation and fines that can climb to $500, depending on the incident.

Rarely, people face a one-year ban from the property. Stub Stewart rangers have filed such exclusions twice: one for someone who fired a gun and one for a park host who violated OPRD policy.

More often, rangers simply patrol campgrounds enforce quiet hours and safeguard plants and wildlife.

Historically, OPRD updated its rules on a case-by-case basis, but Chris Havel, of OPRD’s research and communications division, said this year’s more inclusive updates may curb the cost of constant rulemaking.

“It’s housekeeping, more or less,” Havel said. “You could compare it to spring cleaning, but we don’t want to do it every year.”

The proposed revisions are available at tinyurl.com/Division10Rules.