Front Page, Oakridge/Westfir

5 Rivers Group hears from Forest Service on issue of non-recreational camping in nearby woods

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The 5 Rivers Groups consists of Oakridge/Westfir residents who are interested in cleaning up our forests and rivers from the messes created by illegal non-recreational camping. 5 Rivers Group photo

By BEN OLSON/For The Herald — Ten members of the Oakridge-based 5 Rivers Group met with representatives of the Forest Service on Tuesday to discuss the letter of concern and petition which had been submitted to the local ranger.

The members had an opportunity to hear from the district ranger and her staff. How they are dealing with non-recreational campers, from a law enforcement point of view, and removal of abandoned vehicles were of primary concern. Their plan to deal with fire prevention as things get dry this summer is a concern of everyone.

The Forest Service representatives admitted that they are dealing with complex social and legal issues as they attempt to administer to people “living in the woods.”

Jay Skordahl, a spokesperson for the 5 Rivers Group, said, “It was a good first meeting. I can say that there is a mutual recognition of our many concerns about non-recreational campsites and a mutual commitment to keep working together in search of solutions.”

In the coming days, with help from staff at the South Willamette Forest Collaborative, a framework will be provided for a community-wide meeting and discussion.

The list of suggested ideas submitted to the district ranger of the Forest Service about non-recreational camping are as follows:

(1) Designate a zone around our community as day use only. This will allow for more effective monitoring and prevention of fire and other safety concerns near our community while maintaining daytime public use and recreational enjoyment.

(2) Employ a person or persons to monitor the 5 Rivers watersheds and be a liaison between the community and Forest Service. This person would be a presence visiting campsites, evaluating potential fire hazards, water contamination, hazmats or other potential safety concerns. That representative would be able to initiate appropriate and timely responses and actions to those concerns.

(3) Funds must be allocated to install and maintain these public safety measures through either re-allocation of funds within the Forest Service budget or grants available for fire prevention or other rural public safety measures.

For more information on the work that 5 Rivers Group is doing, please go to their Facebook page.

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