CANNON BEACH — For three years, supporters of the Ecola Forest Reserve planned and negotiated the acquisition of 805 acres from the state Department of Forestry.

They submitted a $4 million bond measure and barely won voter approval to purchase the land.

They attended public hearings, submitted testimony to the state forestry board and even overcame a last-minute appeal by the Clatsop County Hunters Association.

Finally, the reserve came under the ownership of the city of Cannon Beach.

Now, the real work begins.

It’s up to a 10-member committee to develop a management plan for the Ecola Forest Reserve as well as review and possibly revise a plan already developed for an adjacent 220-acre parcel previously acquired by the city.

The committee began meeting in April, and after gaining enough background on the reserve and the duties involved in writing the plan, it’s getting down to business. A draft of the plan is expected to be ready by June.

A survey, asking people how they feel the land should be managed is being mailed to property owners, and a consultant has been hired to conduct research and assist in the plan’s technical aspects.

But the first hurdle came Wednesday when Ken Bierly, deputy director of the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, conducted a hearing in Cannon Beach. The board recently granted $1.4 million to the city to help purchase the property.

In return for the grant, the city will give the watershed board a conservation easement on the property and agree to protect the land’s native salmon, wildlife habitat, watershed and forest. The hearing is required before the watershed board can acquire the easement.

Several people concerned about the easement’s restrictions on hunting peppered Bierly with questions about the restrictions. Although one hunter gave Bierly a letter, none of those expressing concern wanted to testify for the record.

Their questions focused mostly on why firearms couldn’t be discharged on the property.

Bierly told them that hunting is allowed on several properties that are covered by watershed board easements.

“This is not a new issue for us,” he said.

While he admitted that the easement on the Ecola Forest Reserve property prohibits the discharge of firearms, it would be up to the management committee to determine whether hunting would be allowed.

“The city is responsible for the management plan, but the watershed board does have to sign off on it,” Bierly added.

City Planner Rainmar Bartl noted that the hunting would be among several recreational uses considered by the management team and that at least three members of the management committee are experienced hunters. Other recreational possibilities are walking, biking, equestrian use and fishing, he said.

“I know most of you are here because of hunting issues,” Bartl added. “But no decisions have been made on anything.”

One woman in the audience, who declined to give her name, asked if she could carry a gun while walking through the woods.

Bartl replied that if she is legally allowed to carry a gun, she could carry it in the forest reserve, but, depending on the rules the management team makes in the future, she might not be allowed to discharge it.

When asked if the city could charge someone with trespassing, Bierly said the watershed board expects the city to protect the property from trespassers who would “affect the value” of the property.

Bartl agreed.

“The city wants people to use the property and enjoy it,” Bartl said. “One management issue that we have is that the city’s spring sources are on a portion of the original 220 acres.”

However, the city isn’t fencing that area off or putting up “no trespassing” signs, he said. “But as we develop the management plan, it is in our minds about how to minimize the danger to the city water supply.”

The Cannon Beach City Council has adopted four goals for managing the property. They are:

• Protect and restore the low-elevation coastal temperate rain forest: This includes restoring forest habitats to nurture the conifer forests within the watershed and working with other partners to connect the forests within the area.

• Protect municipal water quality: This means preserving existing springs and water intakes, reducing stream sedimentation and enhancing the natural water filtration of streams in wetland areas.

• Protect and enhance salmon habitat: To do this, existing floodplain forests, wetlands and habitats will be preserved, and degraded riparian wetlands and habitats will be restored.

• Foster community involvement with the forest reserve: Provide opportunities for public education focusing on the forest reserve’s ecosystem and allow passive recreation within the reserve that is compatible with all of the goals.

The Council has also hired Trout Mountain Forestry to work on technical issues while the committee develops the management plan. The Portland company specializes in long-term, conservation-based forest management.

Among its duties, Trout Mountain Forestry will review the information already available about habitat, wildlife and fish in the reserve and identify areas where more information is needed. It also will inventory man-made features, such as roads, culverts and power lines; identify management issues and develop strategies to respond to those issues.

Answers to a survey that is being circulated to property owners and others interested in the reserve also will be considered by the management committee, Bartl said.

The 18-question survey asks respondents how often they visit the reserve, what activities they enjoy there and what functions of the reserve are valuable to them.

Respondents also are asked to rate various recreational uses – including hunting – “based on what you consider to be appropriate uses” for the reserve. In a separate question, they are asked which uses they would support, and that selection also includes hunting. Finally, the survey asks respondents to prioritize funding for each use.

The survey is available on the city of Cannon Beach’s website http://ci.cannon-beach.or.us/News/EcolaCreek/EcolaCreek.html.  Responses are due by Oct. 21.

Other information, including maps of the reserve, audio recordings of management committee meetings, Power Point presentations and the watershed board easement document also are on the city’s website.

The committee meets from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on the last Wednesday of each month in City Hall, 163 E. Gower St. Meetings are open to the public, and opportunities will be offered for public comment, Bartl said.

   

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