Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Thursday, Feb. 8 @ 4:57 p.m.
Curry County Moves Forward On Restoration, Housing Project On 34-Acre Parcel Near Sixes
Curry County commissioners on Wednesday enthusiastically supported a proposal to restore part of a 34-acre parcel north of Sixes that had been clear cut and use the remainder for teacher housing.
Commissioner Brad Alcorn held up Ashley Moore’s proposal for the county-owned, recently clear-cut property at Airport Road and U.S. 101 as the “way it’s supposed to work.” He and his colleagues asked Director of County Operations Ted Fitzgerald to begin ordering trees and working with the Port Orford Langlois 2CJ School District to draft a memorandum of understanding for the teacher housing proposal.
“When something happens and there’s a contentious issue or there’s something that’s not favorable in the community, it’s really easy to get on social media and start pointing fingers and placing blame and casting hate and discontent,” Alcorn said. “But Ashley came up with a solution and came to us and got community input and solved a problem. We could use a lot more of that.”
Alcorn also asked Fitzgerald to research the possibility of creating a green memorial park at the site, acting on a suggestion from Port Orford resident Susan Crawford.
Moore presented her idea at a workshop in Port Orford on Jan. 25 roughly five months after the county had contracted Brookings-base CLR Timber Holdings to clear cut the property.
Moore, a captain with the Sixes Volunteer Fire Department, proposed replanting 25 of the 34 acres on the south side of Airport Road with a variety of trees to restore the natural habitat. She said she was concerned about the proliferation of gorse, a highly flammable noxious weed. She also envisioned using the restored area as an outdoor classroom for students at Pacific High School across the street.
“This is a huge opportunity for our young people to show them, not only what not to do, but also to teach them how to repair a creek, how to restore a wetland, how to bring back wildlife and how to plant a diverse crop of native trees to include the Port Orford cedar, pine, hemlock and fir, among others,” she said. “The environmental will facilitate gaining new skills for anyone wanting to go into conservation or forestry.”
Moore also envisioned a jogging trail or an interpretive walkway for students.
On the north side of Airport Road, Moore proposed setting that five-acre parcel aside for teacher housing. She said she had been communicating with Port Orford Langlois 2CJ School District Superintendent of Schools Aaron Miller.
Moore said the county’s initial profit from the clear cut is about $200,000. Burning the slash on both sections and replanting them with a single species of trees would cost about $81,000, she said.
Restoring the southern section, which includes a wetland and a creek, replanting it with a variety of native tree species, burning the slash and removing the gorse would cost about $84,000, Moore said. Removing the stumps on the northern section would cost about $93,500 — roughly $12,500 more than simply reforesting the area would cost — she said.
At that Jan. 25 workshop, Miller told commissioners that he’d be happy to introduce Moore’s proposal to the school board. The housing at that site could help other agencies besides the school district, he said.
On Wednesday, Langlois resident Bob Morrow told commissioners that the county acquired the 34-acre parcel of land in a swap with Oregon State Parks. The county had options for that parcel besides the “easy out” of clear cutting it, he said.
Morrow said Curry County should consider more land swaps with State Parks.
“As you know, Boyce Cope Park generates cash flow for the county when it is full of wind surfers and kite boarders during the summer drawn by the scenic location and good winds,” he said. “The viewshed from the north end of Floras Lake includes unusable county land at the south end that would be a great value for expansion of the state park and protection of the viewshed. This would further secure long-term a valuable tourist attraction.”
A land swap of McVay Rock State Park in Brookings was another land swap idea Morrow came up with on Wednesday.
“If we cannot keep the tourist corridor along Highway 101 looking like the Wild Rivers Coast, it may be time to stop advertising how cool it is to be here,” he said.
Commissioner Jay Trost called Moore’s proposal well thought out. Though some residents were hearing about it for the first time, Trost said, there was overwhelming support.
Trost said he and Alcorn had received emails supporting Moore’s plan as well.
“I think the next steps in my mind would be, if we are in support of this, then we direct our director of operations to move forward with beginning to work this plan out,” Trost said. “The south end is a lot easier because it is what it is. It’s the north end that has a bit of moving pieces to it. What that looks like needs to be discussed.”
Trost referred to a housing package that Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek introduced to lawmakers on Monday. SB 1537 proposes $200 million in state funding for housing infrastructure. The state needs to build nearly half a million units in the next 20 years to keep up with demand, according to Kotek’s office.
On Tuesday, Jefferson Public Radio reported that Cave Junction submitted a $2 million proposal for new streets and water lines to pave the way for roughly an 60 homes. Central Point is seeking $1 million for a roundabout and a traffic signal.
Trost said the land on the northern side of Airport Road is shovel ready, apart from the stumps and slash that needs to be removed.
“Other than that we have to do some zoning stuff, but if that qualifies then maybe it’s in our best interest to move forward with that opportunity and do some kind of an agreement with the high school long term,” he said.
Trost also agreed with looking into the legalities of creating a green memorial park.
Fitzgerald suggested chipping the stumps CLR Timber Holdings’ logging operation left behind rather than burning it, noting it’s across the street from the high school.
There was also some concern that either burning or chipping the slash and stumps could exacerbate a gorse infestation.
“The best way to handle that is spraying,” Fitzgerald said. “Nothing else really works.”
Port Orford City Councilor Ann Vileisis, who is also president of the Kalmiopsis Audubon Society, reiterated her support for Moore’s proposal on Wednesday.
“Not only will it help the county comply with forestry law, it will also help you guys to rectify this ugly clear cut that everybody’s bummed out about,” Vileisis said, referring to Oregon Department of Forestry’s requirement that Curry County reforest the land within two years of the logging operation if there’s no zoning change.
“That proposal that Ashley put together addressed community needs in a wonderful way,” Vileisis told commissioners.