Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Wednesday, Jan. 31 @ 3:20 p.m. / Community, Oregon

Fire Captain Proposes Restoring, Building Teacher Housing On 34-Acre County Parcel Near Sixes That Was Logged Last Year

Five months after it was clear-cut, a Sixes Fire Captain has a proposal for a 34-acre county parcel near Pacific High School. | Curry County


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Nearly five months after a Brookings-based timber company logged a 34-acre county-owned parcel north of Sixes, a local fire captain has come up with a proposal that she says would alleviate the current eyesore and benefit the high school across the street.

Ashley Moore, a captain with the Sixes Volunteer Fire Department, said she envisions a restoration versus reforestation of a 25-acre part of the 34-acre site that’s to the south of Airport Road at U.S. 101. Instead of planting a “mono crop,” she proposed restoring the natural habitat with a diversity of trees.

As for the roughly 5-acre section on the north side of Airport Road, Moore proposed setting that aside for teacher housing for the Port Orford Langlois 2CJ School District.

“Many viable options were ripped from us [with] the previous commissioners’ decision to destroy first and make a plan later,” Moore told the current Board of Commissioners at a workshop in Port Orford on Thursday. “[That] has left us with more limited options as well as a disgruntled populous. Moving forward, I have done some extensive research into what can logistically and realistically be done and I would like to present what I believe is a good solution for both the county and the residents of North Curry.”

On July 20, 2022 the Board of Commissioners approved a timber sale with CLR Timber Holdings, of Brookings, at the 34-acre property on Airport Road across the highway from Pacific High School. The company began logging that property in September 2023 and on Sept. 20, 2023, the Board of Commissioners met in Port Orford to discuss the future of the property.

On Thursday, after Moore made her presentation, commissioners heard from 13 North Curry County residents who supported her idea. Commissioner Brad Alcorn said they would submit Moore’s proposal to their legal counsel, who would probably have questions, before having a more formal discussion at a future Board of Commissioners meeting.

According to Natasha Tippetts, the Board of Commissioners’ administrative assistant, they have several options for the future of that site.

“There’s two lots,” she said. “They could replant both lots as soon as possible and there are different things they could replant it with. They could go with one species versus [several] different species. They could rezone it and do something else with it, like housing. They could rezone it and donate it to the school, which was proposed. They haven’t made any decisions yet.”

Tippetts said she wasn’t sure when the Board of Commissioners will take up the issue again — it could be in March — but when they do have that discussion it will likely be at another meeting in Port Orford.

A second, informal proposal, was put forth by Susan Crawford on Thursday, who urged commissioners to support Moore’s idea but to set aside an acre for a green burial memorial park.

“There’s no poison in the ground and no coffins except wicker, which recycles into the ground, and you become a tree,” Crawford said. “The average plot would cost between $500 and $5,000 and you can fit 700 to 1,000 plots in 1 acre. Do the math. That’s just pure profit for the county.”

The Airport Road parcel is currently zoned for as public facility, which presents limitations under the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Moore said. There’s a marshy wetland on the south section along with a creek, which would make obtaining DEQ approval for large septic systems difficult “if not impossible,” she said.

The northern section would be better suited for septic since there isn’t a creek on it and the wetland may not extend that far, according to Moore.

Moore said she was also concerned about the proliferation of gorse, a noxious highly flammable weed.

“Gorse fires are some of the fastest spreading hottest burning wildfires I have ever experienced. We must be diligent in keeping the gorse down to protect the environment and protect the citizens of the Sixes District and beyond,” she said. “Our utmost priority in all this, however — which should be an easy decision for all of you — is the safety, the needs and the welfare of our children. The property is located maybe 100 yards away from Pacific High School and we have a staunch responsibility to protect them and make sure everything we do regarding this issue is in their best interest.”

According to Moore, if there is no zoning change filed with the Oregon Department of Forestry, the county has up to two years to reforest the land and six years for the trees to reach a point where they no longer need human intervention to grow. The clock on that deadline is already ticking, she said.

Moore proposed restoring the natural habitat on the south side of the parcel that houses the wetland and creek and to recruit help from nearby Pacific High School.

“This is a huge opportunity for our young people to show them, not only what not to do, but also 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 environment will facilitate gaining new skills for anyone wanting to go into conservation or forestry.”

Moore also laid out a vision for a jogging trail or an interpretive walkway for students.

On the 5-acre parcel north of Airport Road, Moore said the county could work with the 2CJ School District to build housing for teachers. According to her, the district hired four teachers last year who turned the positions down because they weren’t able to find places to live.

Moore said she’s spoken with Superintendent of Schools Aaron Miller. On Thursday, she told commissioners about the conversations she’s had with Miller.

“The school district would lease the property for $1 for a hundred years, or whatever terms are set forth by the county, for the sole purpose of employee housing,” she said. “The school district would not seek to profit from this housing as most of the rent would go back into the maintenance of the facility and the grounds. If a teacher quits or gets fired, they would be required to vacate the home to make room for an incoming employee.”

Moore said the county’s initial profit from this clear cut — “the numbers that I’ve heard” — is about $200,000. Burning the slash on both sections and replanting it with a single species of trees would cost about $81,000, according to Moore.

Restoring the southern section, including the wetland, 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 the clear cut left behind on the northern section would cost about $9,500 for a total of $93,500.

“Those of you who don’t want to do any math, the difference between the mono crop, which is required, [and] the acceptance of this proposal is about $12,500,” Moore told commissioners.

Moore, who lives on Airport Road, said she gathered a list of other proposals for the 34-acre parcel that include building a Walmart or an Olive Garden, building a hotel to support the incoming golf course, a casino, a recreational facility, a swimming pool and a gymnasium for the high school.

She noted with septic approval, funding and maintenance many of those ideas aren’t viable options.

During public comment, Quinn Allen, a stewardship forester for ODF who spoke with Moore about her proposal, acknowledged that the county is responsible for removing the slash and replanting the parcel. The slash could be removed, burned or chipped — ODF doesn’t care, according to Allen.

A monoculture is typically how most people reforest their land with Douglas fir being the most inexpensive, Allen said. However, any native species can be used for reforestation, she said.

“We also have a trees-per-acre standard,” she said. “It would be 200 trees per acre that we would expect to be reforested. It’s pretty easy to space your trees out so you can get your interpretive areas in there. As far as free-to-grow status, brush control is required for six years or until those trees reach that free-to-grow status where they’re not competing with any kind of invasive vegetation, gorse being our biggest concern as well.”

Miller, the Port Orford Langlois 2CJ School District superintendent, said he has also spoken with Moore about her proposal, which could be beneficial for both the district and the county.

Pacific High School’s career technical education students could spearhead the building of a nature trail and use the southern section as an avenue to explore careers in forestry, the superintendent told commissioners. Miller said he also had an idea for building employee housing on property at Pacific High School, though partnering with the county could address that issue on a broader scale.

“All our agencies are having trouble with workforce issues,” Miller said. “We’ve got county, we’ve got city, we got soil and water conservation [district], we got state parks — we have a number of people who are having trouble attracting people to work those lower paying jobs and being able to have a place to stay and live and continue to be part of our community.”

Miller said he’d be happy to introduce Moore’s proposal to the Port Orford Langlois School District Board of Trustees to see if it bears fruit.

“We as a district are ready to support this idea for the nature trail and to work together with our student programs,” he said. “And we’re definitely in support of how that other piece would work, but there are a lot of moving parts that make that a more difficult project.”

Moore’s proposal also received endorsement from Port Orford City Councilor Ann Vileisis, who is also president of the Kalmiopsis Audubon Society.

Vileisis said she and others have had ideas for how to use that Airport Road parcel in ways that could benefit the county and have voiced those opinions for years. She said North Curry County residents assumed that there would be movement on those ideas rather than simply clear-cutting the land.

Reforesting the land now, Vileisis said, would be one of the best defenses against gorse.

“Ideally, the new forest will be made up of diverse trees with special care to the edge of the stream that flows through it,” she said. “And in the future, this forested land could become a tremendous asset for the school, an outdoor lab where kids could learn, where there could perhaps be a running track for the track team or a nature trail or perhaps some day, additional facilities.”


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