Lack of resources means the park is not being used for what it was intended for

I applaud Mr. Dick Noren’s call for public awareness regarding Bald Peak State Park (March 21 Hillsboro Tribune letters to the editor).

However, I also believe it is important to highlight the history of the current situation regarding the obstructed view from the park, and call attention to a much wider concern.

As it is in most cases, there is more to this story than meets the eye. The genesis of the obstructing row of firs across from the park is from what has become a common issue in our fine state: land use planning versus the rights of private property owners.

The property owner intentionally planted those firs in response to an almost two-decade dispute with the state regarding the rezoning and subdivision of the property.April 23 guest opinion

Because of this disagreement, all involved suffer.

While the obstructed view is not what was intended when the park was established, the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department has done a good job of coping with the situation by improving the view to the west overlooking the Wapato Valley, Chehalem Valley and the coast range.

Mount Hood and Mount Jefferson vistas may still be taken in if one chooses to exit one’s vehicle and take the time to stroll to the picnic area in the south end of the park.

I have lived adjacent to the park for more than 20 years and walk the park nearly every day. I have watched it devolve into what most kindly can be described as an attractive nuisance.

While one can still see the public using the park for its intended purposes — picnics, hiking and a gathering place for families, bicyclists, motorcyclists and the like — it has also increasingly become the site for all-night teenage drinking parties, loud car stereos, “drifting” contests, drug deals, trysts, illegal fireworks, random gunfire, suicides and a cheap alternative to paying landfill fees.

Bald Peak State Park is designated as day-use only. It has clearly posted hours of use and occupation with a vehicle gate at the entrance that may be closed after hours.

This does not happen and the hours of use are not enforced. I too have spoken to Ryan Sparks and members of his staff at the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department about these and other issues. They are quite sympathetic, but explain that continued state budget cuts and park priorities keep them from being able to enforce the hours of use and tend the park gate.

To further exacerbate matters, Bald Peak State Park is physically located in Yamhill County. Any calls to the Yamhill County Sheriff’s Office reporting problems at the park get transferred to the Oregon State Police because the park is technically state property.

With the OSP budget what it is and the number of troopers available at night, the ability to police the park is very limited.

The obstructed view is indeed frustrating. But what the general public and frequent users of the park should be truly outraged about is our state’s lack of investment in our park assets, and in particular the ability to keep Bald Peak State Park safe, clean and maintained for all.

Bret Gutzka is a rural Newberg resident

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