Favorite Oregon Coast Campground Likely Remain
|Oswald West State Park photo courtesy Chris Havel, Oregon Parks
(Manzanita, Oregon) - A favorite state park of Oregonians
and tourists appears to be shut down to camping, possibly for good. Although
the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) is taking public comment
on the situation at Oswald West State Park - one forced by falling trees
that present quite the quandary.
OPRD spokesman Chris Havel said the agency is exploring
options for the future of the park and campground. The problem is: do
they cut down ancient trees that are in danger of falling into the campground,
or do they leave them and the park in its natural state and shut down
camping for safety reasons?
The small, primitive campground at Oswald West State Park
on the north Oregon coast, near Manzanita, was closed in June 2008. The
closure was announced after a large, mature spruce tree fell around midnight
in the middle of the campground. Luckily, no one was injured, even though
the campground was full at the time.
|Oswald West State Park photo courtesy Chris Havel, Oregon Parks
Throughout the winter, park managers and natural resource
specialists examined the campground closely and discovered more trees
were ready to fall sometime in the future. About 49 were found in a possibly
precarious state, many around five to six feet in circumference, but a
few more than 20 feet round, possibly 300 years old.
These could fall into the campground itself or onto one
of a few high-use trails throughout the densely forested park.
Approximately 15,000 people a year use the campground,
which has 30 primitive sites.
While the main trails and the beach were never closed,
left open for day use, the campground posed worries for officials.
|A favorite attraction at Oswald is its suspension bridge.
Havel said they were left with three options.
Leave the trees alone and re-open the campground, leaving
the trees to chance.
Cut down the possibly hazardous trees and reopen the campground.
Cut down only the worst offending trees, leaving all the
rest in place, and keep the campground closed.
“To re-open the campground, we'd have to cut down
49 trees, many of them very large and very old,” Havel said in a
note to the media. “Oswald West is supposed to be managed as a natural
park, not an intensely-managed campground. So, rather than cut those trees,
we'd rather leave them be and keep the campground closed.”
A 1986 plan for state parks in Tillamook County states
Oswald West should be kept as natural as possible. Parks like Nehalem
Bay State Park, five miles south, are better suited for campground development.
Cutting down a large number of trees in such a small area as the Oswald
West campground would change the natural character of the park; other
trees in and around the campground area could also be weakened as a result,
and eventually need to be cut down.
|Short Sand Beach from above.
The state opted to protect an estimated three million visitors
a year who visit the park’s beaches and trails, at least for now.
Back in June, Havel said the first tree gave no signs it
would topple. There was no windstorm or otherwise heavy weather conditions.
It suddenly toppled, actually grazing a camper’s tent.
“A couple trees that threaten the highway or buildings
may have to come down, but we will be very selective and protect the ancient
woodlands as much as possible,” Havel said.
Havel said the state is taking public input on the
subject until March 31. Contact information can be found on the park’s
website, at http://www.oregon.gov/OPRD/PARKS/oswest.shtml
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