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Posts Tagged ‘July 20 OR Parks and Rec Commission Mtg’

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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