The last quarter of 2018 has been a very busy one for Douglas County Parks Advisory Resource Committee (DCPARC). It was a combination of park related activities and the never ending monitoring of our Douglas County government.
Since the last newsletter, we lead UW members on an education tour of Iverson Park, had a table at the Umpqua Brewfest with the Busenbark tree stumps, completed our final trail cleanup for the Riverside trail in
Roseburg (with a record number of 9 people to help us fill a dumpster of trash) and held the annual Mushroom Hike at Iverson Park. Despite a lack of mushrooms due to a warm and dry Autumn, fifty people showed up and listened to Geoff Niles educational lecture about mushrooms.
Always challenging is the monitoring of our county government. In October, we learned that the board of commissioners re-adopted the Douglas County “Open Space” amendment. It is being appealed to the Land Use and Conservation Board (LUBA) by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Thousand Friends of Oregon, and the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD). This will likely be a prolonged legal struggle. We fear that the state legislature will enact legislation to legalize amendments such as the Rural Open Spaces amendment.
We testified at the Douglas County Planning Commission meeting against a proposal to reopen a rock quarry along the North Umpqua River and were happy to hear that the planning commission voted against this proposal. A proponent of the proposal has filed an appeal. We await the outcome.
Members of the Parks Advisory Board attended the Winchester Bay community meeting despite a 1 day notice where commissioners Boice and Freeman toured the dunes. There have been no follow-up decisions to their October and November meetings. Two new board members have been recruited and appointed while the applications for this board has disappeared. Only one opening was announced, however two appointments have been made. One recruit is Dan Loomis (former candidate for commissioner who dropped out of the race and endorsed Tom Kress in the last election), the other recruit is Phil Bigler, who was appointed before the current member retired in December. Interim commissioner Christine Goodwin is reported to be “on hiatus” for her Parks Advisory Board position. She returns after her BOC term ends on December 31. Public attendance has decreased substantially at these meetings. We need more people watching this committee. The parks department wants to spend $800,000 to replace the restrooms at Rocky Point/Umpqua Dunes RV Park even after buying it for $1.4 million. They have also invested in new road signs for many of the developed parks, as opposed to our county nature parks, which have amenities such as hiking trails that people actually desire. Also, they are still monitoring “hazard” trees at Kanipe Park, an issue we are following. Parks director Rocky Houston has decided not to reduce park fees for veterans as requested by the DCPARC. His reasoning was explained by indicating that “unemployment is so low right now.” We fail to see how that is connected.
At a BOC meeting recently, the commissioners approved a board order to change the classification of Busenbark from a “park” to “county forestland.” It was inspiring that UW had such a large presence at this meeting. Nine members spoke against the reclassification and others were in the audience. This board order is an attempt by the BOC to bury the Busenbark controversy in hopes that we go away. We will not! The truth is, only two public notices of this hearing were listed in The News Review and Busenbark was not named. The legal description was given without the park name which is the bare legal minimum required. We feel that the BOC are trying to evade public scrutiny of this process. If it were not for the dedicated diligence of Kat Stone, we would not have had such a strong presence at this meeting. We certainly owe her a BIG “Thanks.”
For 2019, DCPARC plans more outreach with hikes and tours in our County Parks. A cleanup of the river trail is planned for April. We will never cease our monitoring of County Government. But we do need help. Join us on the 3rd Wednesday, 6pm at the UW office. REMEMBER BUSENBARK!