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County parks shift gears with changing season

Despite temperature drop, county parks hold seasonal allure


by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Sun peeks through the trees on the Liahona Trail at Camp Wilkerson, located at 65866 Apiary Rd in Rainier.As the mornings become more frigid and winter looms over Columbia County’s last few days of sunshine, the county’s parks are beginning to see fewer visitors and park officials have started to shift gears.

Glen Crinklaw, Columbia County’s assistant public works director, said although the season is tapering down, the county’s parks this year saw more visitors than is typical. n “We did finish the peak season with an upswing in park usage from the same period last year,” he said. “That extra revenue will relieve some pressure on our overall financial picture.”

This year, the park saw higher mid-week usage, Crinklaw said in an earlier interview with the Spotlight, speculating that the nice weather drew more people out of the city on weekdays.

The parks department was shorthanded during last year’s outdoor season since the Columbia County Board of Commissioners passed an ordinance in June of 2012 to adsorb recreational fees from the Parks Department to fill a more-than-$2 million dollar hole in the general fund for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

The parks budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year—which began July 1—rebounded from the previous year when full funding returned to the department.

While some community members may be more apt to stay under a warm blanket for the next five or six months, even with the drop in temperature, Crinklaw says, there is much to be seen in the county’s parks. And most notably at Camp Wilkerson, located at 65866 Apiary Road in Rainier, he said. by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Glen Crinklaw, Columbia Countys assistant public works director said that the season for edible chantrelle mushrooms has been the best hes ever seen at Camp Wilkerson.

“The fall season at Camp Wilkerson is, in my opinion, the most spectacular time to visit the park,” he said. “I would put this park up against any park on the East Coast for the vibrancy of changing tree colors. The vine maple and big leaf maple colors have put on a huge nature show the past couple of weeks.”

Crinklaw added that the season for mushroom hunting is still in full swing.

“The mushroom season in the park has been the most robust that I can remember,” he said. “The prized edible Oregon golden chanterelle mushroom is abundant and relatively easy to locate. If one is into mushroom identification, Camp Wilkerson can’t be beat for variety.”

Crinklaw said Camp Wilkerson’s trail network is in great shape for hiking or single-track mountain biking and should hold up until hard winter rains wear it down.