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Posts Tagged ‘Floras Lake Natural Area’

New River ACEC

New River ACEC

We’ve visited the New River (a river which runs north behind the foredunes and tidal zone along about ten miles of the Coos/Curry coast) many times before, both at Floras Lake near where the river begins and at Storm Ranch about five miles north.

Recently we decided to try the other two entrances to this 1100 acre Bureau of Land Management Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). The New River area has been set aside because of its biodiversity. (It includes sand dunes, pine forest, wetlands, meadows and shrubland as well as an abandoned cranberry bog!) Portions of the foredunes are off limits from March 15 through September 15 to protect nesting snowy plovers. We’ve spotted bald and golden eagles, Aleutian cackling geese, terns and otters.

This time we took the Lost Lake Trail which is accessed just south of Bandon in Laurel Grove. The trail leads to a quiet small lake dotted with lilies and snags and in shallow areas, contains a wetland. The lake is edged with spruce. Beyond the lake the trail continues through steep dunes to the New River.

The second trail we followed was a short one (only one-quarter mile), on the northern side of Four Mile Creek. It passes among large beach homes, through a shrubby archway and a meadow, covered in yellow composites. In winter this can often turn to an impassible wetland. There are huge pieces of redwood driftwood on the eastern side of the river at Four Mile Creek. Perhaps they were stranded when the New River was formed after the Great Flood of 1890.

There are many freshwater lakes separated from the ocean by foredunes and a steep beach around here. Most are the result of migrating sand dunes which close off creeks or valleys, impounding and collecting fresh water behind them. While fairly common on the southern coast, it is always a surprise to come on a lake from whose shore I can hear and often see the ocean.

ALONG THE NEW RIVER

© SR Euston

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State Parks Director Tim Wood effectively ended the feckless attempt by Curry County Commissioner George Rhodes to open Floras Lake SNA– one of Oregon’s state park gems–to private development. In a letter to Rhodes and other county commissioners dated September 23, Wood states flatly that  “the value of this property to the state park system is irreplaceable.”  While he prefaces his comments with “It is my personal opinion,” he then adds that many of the other state park commissioners feel the same. Tim Wood refers to the area’s “unique and wondrous treasure”.  Sam Boardman, father of the Oregon State Park System, couldn’t have done better.

The stuff of this letter is no bureaucratize. Bureaucrats just aren’t supposed to use words like “wondrous” or “treasure”.

Tim Wood finishes his letter with this: “I sincerely believe that there is no proposal for sale or trade of this property that would meet the standard for such a transaction.” The criterion the State Park Commission must use in any deliberation involving sale or transfer of a state park unit is “overwhelming public benefit to state parks”.  The Curry County non-proposal is less than underwhelming.

There’s a feeling in Tim Wood’s words, a feeling in defense of nature. Feeling for a primal mysterious place a few miles north of here now being drenched by an early October rain. We discovered this place one January while visiting from New Mexico. The trail was a muddy, sluggish river. Straggly rhododendron and scrubby huckleberry barred the way while we tried to find ways around ankle deep puddles. Not a soul was around, except salamanders (if they have souls which they just might). Then climbing a bit through woods of spruce and shore pine, we came to the dun-green grassy rim of the world, and the sun broke through watery clouds, and the light scattered itself nearly to Asia. We ate a  hiker’s lunch on a log sheltered from the wind by a copse of flattened shore pine. Below, breakers roared off  Blacklock Point. That afternoon, the clock stopped. Truly.

Blacklock Point, January © SR Euston

We have since learned happily that time stops for a lot of people on Blacklock Point, including for many in Port Orford, for Tim Wood and his staff, and for most and hopefully for all of the State Park Commissioners.

Sam Boardman engineered the acquisition of what was then called Newburg State Park in the early 1940s. He was angry that an airport was carved from some of the property. He read well the elemental quality of the place, and wanted it to stay that way. It’s reassuring, in fact a lot more than reassuring, to think that in these times of government bashing, real people are still hanging in there making public decisions that reflect enlightened ideas of state park system stewardship harking back 70 years to Sam Boardman.

Commisioners Rhodes, Itzen and Waddle, can you grasp the word “wondrous”?                                   Stan Euston

Great News! I’m not sure they got the word “wondrous”. But the Commissioners have dropped their plan.

Floras Lake Beach Looking South to Blacklock Point © SR Euston

Rock Pillars Blacklock Point © SR Euston

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Oregon has many state parks of outstanding natural beauty. But the great string of coastal  parks has always been the jeweled necklace, the backbone, the historical centerpiece of the state parks system. The wave pounded headlands, silver strands of beaches, sandy coves, sand spits, sea stacked vistas— our coastline equals any. But one element is missing from this picture. That’s nature, unadulterated nature, nature undeveloped. Few coastal parks are nature preserves first and foremost. But thankfully, one is.

Floras Lake State Natural Area (FLNA), a unit of the state park system, is located a number of miles off Highway 101 at the end of Airport Road, south of Langlois. Imagine, no highway noise!  No development except trails. Not even picnic tables. In fact, it’s the most natural park in the entire coastal system. It was a favorite acquisition, in 1943, of the iconic Sam Boardman, considered “father” of the Oregon State Park System, a true Oregon visionary.  It includes wild, tangled rhododendron thickets, frog ponds, sitka spruce forest, open shore pine hillsides, a fine waterfall, a superb coastal headland at Blacklock Point, orange colored sandstone cliffs, and miles of beach. On the north, FLNA is bounded by the BLM New River Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), an ecological and birding standout. From New River to Port Orford Heads, a great stretch of the southern Oregon coast away from roads is largely protected, a priceless part of our landed heritage.

That is, if  Chairman George Rhodes and the two other Curry County Commissioners don’t get their way with state agencies.  A opaque series of actions centering on county takeover of the airport and adjoining FLNA is now in shadowy process.

Take the airport first. This Spring the county commissioners asked the state to transfer ownership of the run-down airstrip to the county, for the ostensible purpose of creating a sort of industrial-commercial center.  If this idea sounds off the wall, that’s because it is. A consultant study commissioned by the very same county commission found the airport development scheme unfeasible—in plainer words, a pipe dream.

Considering the county is almost bankrupt, it seems even more strange. Any development would require considerable county investment. Furthermore, the consultant makes a glowing case for  eco-tourism/ sustainable living as the best opportunity for economic growth in the region. FLNA is both ecologically outstanding, and it’s a sustainable asset – that is, if no one (or county) tampers with it.

But that’s not all. The  county commission is now petitioning the State Parks Commission for transfer of the entire 1400 acre FLNA to the county. Why, one may ask? Why would a fiscally strapped county even think about taking on more obligations?

There are some clues to this mystery. In an interview, Chairman Rhodes said that he wanted to see a county park with golf course, leasing some to a developer, making it the “crown jewel” of Curry County. (Parks people may wince at his use of “crown jewel”. That term’s usually reserved for places like Yellowstone.)

My eye was caught by the mention of “developer” in Mr. Rhodes’ comments. He mentions that development of the property would raise revenue for the county. Mr. Rhodes makes no mention of which developer, if any, he has in mind. Or how 1400 acres of state park property, which Mr. Rhodes states is half under water, is enticing to developers.

I’ll end this mystery here. The next chapter will be played out on July 20th, 10:15 AM at the Harbortown events center, 325 2nd St., SE, Bandon. The State Park Commission will be hearing citizen comment on the county’s request. If you can’t attend personally you can send comments via email to the State Parks Commission’s assistant Vanessa DeMoe:
vanessa.demoe at state. or. us  Those conservatives who want to conserve a bit of nature for future generations might especially want to attend, and maybe speak out for conservation.   Stan Euston

Below is a slideshow of Floras Lake Natural Area (FLNA) including the adjacent beach and Blacklock Point, and BLM’s adjacent New River Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). All photos are © SR Euston.

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