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New fees, rules won't dim Tillamook's lure

COURTESY PHOTO: OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY - This new bridge will help accommodate the increasing number of visitors to the Tillamook State Forest, giving hikers a safe, accessible way to cross the river.On any hot summer day, it’s common to find a line of dusty cars and trucks waiting for a riverside spot in the Tillamook State Forest off Highway 6.

Music blares from a packed parking lot as the Wilson River’s banks swell with day-trippers cooling off in the water. Jennifer Magby from the Oregon Department of Forestry and a Tillamook County Sheriff’s deputy direct traffic and answer questions as people zigzag searching for a parking spot. As state wildfire officials prepare for the summer after three severe wildfire seasons, ODF recreation staff are working nonstop to ensure the increasingly popular Tillamook, Clatsop and Santiam State Forests are enjoyed by families and twenty-somethings alike, as once-hidden gems now fill with hundreds of visitors. After an overdue evaluation of ODF’s recreation fee structure and campsite capacity and with input from recreation groups, community leaders and the general public, ODF is revising fees and capacity limits to keep up with the increasing and unsustainable demand for state-owned recreation areas. That demand has outpaced capacity and resources available for management, often resulting in conflicts between user groups and creating major issues for sanitation and the environment, safety, and vandalism.The new rules this summer will alleviate short-term concerns, while also providing tools to address long-term issues.Hot weather drives people from all over the metro area into the cool hills of the coastal range.

“These rule revisions help us to continue providing the same quality and high level service enjoyed by many over the years while limiting negative interactions with this beautiful area,” said Stephanie Beall, a long-time recreation coordinator for the ODF Forest Grove District. “As we continue to host significantly more people at our state forest recreation areas, we’ve worked to put rules and structure in place to create an enjoyable experience.”

The fee revisions are the first in more than 20 years as ODF state forests continue to be the best option for people from nearby communities to enjoy the outdoors at a reasonable price. The changes include:

¦ Drive-in sites are $15 per night; walk-in sites are $10 per night; group sites are $50 per night. Extra vehicles will be charged $5 per night, per vehicle.

¦ A campsite may not be occupied by more than eight people and two motor vehicles, unless otherwise posted.

¦ Registered campers must physically occupy campsites each night during the entire length of their stay. Sites cannot be reserved in advance except for group campsites at select campgrounds.

¦ All large commercial events of more than fifty people, scheduled for longer than four hours, will require organizers to apply for a permit through a local ODF district office, including the one at 801 Gales Creek Road in Forest Grove.

¦ All forage or feed used on state forestlands for horses or other animals must be certified weed-free, primarily to avoid introducing invasive species to the area.

¦ ODF will assume custody and remove all abandoned property found after 48 hours in designated recreation areas.

¦ ODF staff and law enforcement reserve the right to exclude or evict visitors not complying with recreation rules.

“Despite the rain and recent cloudy weather, it’s still really dry out there,” said Mike Cafferata, the district forester for the Forest Grove District. “It’s critical that whenever you’re enjoying Oregon’s state forests, that you always practice fire safety, be aware of dry brush, and help keep your state forests green, safe and clean.” The ODF State Forests Division manages nearly 820,000 acres of state forestlands for greatest permanent value by law, requiring that these lands produce a range of economic, environmental and social benefits.

Tony Andersen is a public information officer with the Oregon Department of Forestry.