There is little if any opposition to a complex land exchange that would create a new state park in Washington County.

Only a few people showed up for a public hearing on the proposed deal Wednesday afternoon at the Clatsop County Courthouse.

The exchange between Longview Fibre Company, the Oregon Department of Forestry and Oregon State Parks and Recreation would consolidate the holdings of all three parties.

"We're looking at a very large exchange to create about a 1,700-acre state park," said Dave Wright, who heads the state parks resources and planning division. "It's really a study in cooperation and patience."

The state park would be comprised of commercial timberlands harvested by Longview Fibre in western Washington County.

The Washington County Board of Commissioners and Oregon state parks department approached ODF and Longview Fibre in 2000 with a proposal to acquire a parcel just east of State Highway 47, north of the town of Buxton.

After a series of meetings, and a three-year planning process, a deal was brokered.

Longview Fibre would receive scattered parcels, mostly managed by ODF, in Washington and Tillamook counties totaling more than 3,500 acres. The parcels adjoin with existing company timberlands, facilitating "improved forest-management efficiency," according to a press release from Longview Fibre.

ODF will receive 1,341 acres of "linear lands" along U.S. Highway 26 and State Highway 6. This is land that was deeded to the Oregon Department of Transportation to preserve "scenic strips" along the highways, said Wright, the state parks manager.

When state parks became its own department in 1990, it was given these lands along the highways to preserve. Wright said, "it just makes sense to have one agency managing that contiguous property.

"They're not going to cut it anymore than we would," he said.

ODF is planning to build a Tillamook State Forest Interpretive Center on some of that land off Highway 6.

ODF will also receive 2,046 acres of Longview Fibre land that is surrounded by existing state forestry land, which will also help achieve land-management efficiencies.

A spokesman for the Tillamook Rainforest Coalition said this land exchange is a great idea.

Donald Fontenot, outreach director for the newly-formed group that wants greater conservation of western Oregon's public forest lands, said he has personally toured many of the parcels that would be traded in this exchange.

While some of the parcels that will be traded to Longview Fibre have 70- to 80-year-old trees, or are "fairly roadless," Fontenot said "we're willing to overlook them," because "overall, we think that this is a great deal for Washington County and the state of Oregon."

The state park that would come out of this deal would be the first new park built in the state in the last 10 years, and the first "major" campground development since the late 1970s, Wright said.

Plans for the park include an 80-unit RV and tent campground, a small equestrian campground with corral, group day-use areas, group campgrounds with yurts and a walk-in site for more primitive camping, Wright said.

Hikers and mountain bikers can get a feel for the park now, by following the Banks-Vernonia State Trail, which runs through the middle of the proposed park site.

Wright hopes to have some public access to the site within a year, assuming all goes well with the land exchange. The exchange must be approved by county commissions in Washington, Columbia, Clatsop and Tillamook counties, the state forester and the state board of forestry.

Comments will be accepted on the proposed exchange until April 11. For more information, visit the ODF Web site: www.odf.state.or.us

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