Summer Recreation: Balancing Interests – Creating Opportunity

The early “August” hot temperatures we have been experiencing impact how we spend our free time. Many people choose to recreate in the North Santiam River Recreation Areas of Marion County. I personally love this area and have actively worked towards helping the communities find ways to improve the livability and protect the environment through updating their infrastructure, such as water and sewer systems. If you live in Salem you should care about the watershed in this area, as it provides the high quality drinking water we all enjoy and much of the water for our important agriculture community.

I thought I’d share a little about my recent field trip(s) to some of these naturally beautiful and great places to cool down when the temps are in the 80s, 90s, and 100s!

First, my love of Detroit Lake began back in 1999, when Judy and I put our boat and trailer up at Kane’s Marina. This weekend we were able to float out on the lake in our boat and swim in the 70 degree water. One evening I watched osprey, and a bald eagle enjoy some fishing in the lake. We were able to do this even as the lake is below 33% of normal because of the winter boat ramp that was completed a few years back and the hard work of Detroit Lake Marina and Kane’s Marinas to move docks to a temporary location for the season. It may be a short season, but the businesses have made the best of it and many citizens are able to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Second, I took a guided hike into the Opal Creek Recreation and Wilderness Area on Saturday. This area was set aside back in 1996 with a promise from the federal government of a $15 million payment to the impacted timber communities. This payment has yet to materialize, and has made the North Santiam River Canyon one of the main focuses of economic development in Marion County. We will continue to use this broken promise as motivation in seeking grant opportunities for infrastructure in this economically depressed area.

As I walked through this beautiful, historic area, I thought about the importance of the natural resources and the recreational opportunities it provides to our citizens about an hour’s drive away. Water – a natural resource we value and a recreational source creates challenges to keep the place healthy, as was evident on this 90 degree day. The group that sponsored the walk, Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center, owns and operates Jawbone Flats, which is located 3.1 miles from the trail head. Here you can rent cabins, relax and be out of touch with email, cell phones and the busy life -just minutes away. But one of the most important activities they facilitate are outdoor schools for our youth. As I was listening to the presentation enjoying a wonderful home cooked soup, Raquel Moore-Green’s husband Jim stopped in to say hello. He had started at 7:30 that morning and was completing the 14 mile Whetstone Mountain Trail. Later in the day he would be back in Salem at Deepwood enjoying live jazz!

When I drove down the Forest Service Road to head home, I discovered another one of the very difficult challenges we face with such a popular recreational location on a hot day. The two lane road was barely one lane wide and people coming in and out at the same time presented significant challenges. This experience was perfect timing for the Monday evenings public safety meeting at the Little North Fork Fire Station.
Before the community meeting on Monday evening, I set out and toured other county parks on the little North Fork and North Santiam River. Most people do not even know when they are in a county, BLM, Forest Service or state park. To us as citizens they all have equal value and appeal to make for a healthy life style. As governments, we have our challenges in keeping the environments healthy and safe for all visitors. There were many suggestions that came out of this community meeting and I know our Sheriff’s Office, Public Works, and the Forest Service will be creative in their efforts to improve the quality of recreation in the area. The help of neighbors and citizens will be a big part of the solution. Our public safety teams rely heavily on citizens educating each other and working with deputies in prevention.

As your Marion County Commissioner, I am enjoying this position of service. I know we live in one of the most beautiful areas of the state, country and world. We all value this region and need to work together to make sure we keep it a beautiful place to recreate on these hot summer days! Have fun this summer, stay cool and as Smoky the Bear says, “Only you can prevent forest fires”

06 27 15 Trio
Pictures taken Saturday, June 27, 2015 by Kevin Cameron