Update on Hearings for New State Park Announced

Photo of Eagle perched on Sand Lake spit, by Jim Hauge.
Eagle perched on Sand Lake spit. Photo by Jim Hauge.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department has updated its plans for a second round of public meetings concerning the new state park to be developed on the Sand Lake spit.  State Parks is working on a plan for what will be known as the Sitka Sedge State Park on the former “Beltz Farm” property, acquired for the public and slated to become a largely natural state park.

As previously announced, on Thursday, Jan. 14, the advisory committee meets 1-4 p.m. at the Kiawanda Community Center (34600 Cape Kiwanda Drive) in Pacific City.  This meeting is open to the public, although comments are not taken.  Oregon Shores board member Allison Asbjornsen represents us on this committee.  That evening, 6-8 p.m., there will be a public meeting, at which citizens can comment, at the same location.

Those who live inland but care about the Sand Lake area will have a chance when a second hearing is held Tuesday, Jan. 26, 6-8 p.m., at the Wilsonville Public Library (8200 S.W. Wilsonville Rd.).  Note that this is a change from the earlier announced date.

At this set of public meetings, State Parks will present the results of their internal resource assessments.  Community members and park staff will work together to begin to identify key goals and strategies to guide creation of the future state park. Staff will also present planning concepts with alternatives for development of the state park and listen to public comment.  “Concept alternatives” present different visions for the park to help State Parks staff consider the specific opportunities and challenges. Public engagement and discussion at this meeting is especially important to the success of the planning effort.

Any citizen can track the planning effort and contribute comments by going to the website set up by State Parks for this purpose, http://beltzplan.com/.  The site enables visitors to post notes directly onto a map of the site, and to take two related surveys.  Minutes of the recent advisory committee meeting are also on this site.

Background:  One of our Land Use Program’s proudest moments came on the day last year when State Parks completed purchase of the “Beltz Farm” property which occupies the spit enclosing the Sand Lake estuary just north of Tierra del Mar.  Our only role in the acquisition of the land for the public was to advocate for it.  However, a decade earlier the property might have been turned into a golf resort, destroying its natural character, if Oregon Shores hadn’t effectively blocked the development plan.  We stood vigilantly on guard to preserve the property from inappropriate development ever since, and our vigilance finally paid off.

The first round of public meetings in August gave interested citizens a chance to weigh in on the area’s management, and established some of the concerns we face in assuring that the park is designed to protect the natural values of this extraordinary coastal resource.  While State Parks has made clear its intention to manage the future park as an essentially natural area, without significant development—an approach that Oregon Shores applauds—there are still many decisions ahead which could affect the park’s role in preserving what is essentially an intact coastal habitat area.

Here are some of the key issues that have been raised, as Allison noted them during the advisory committee discussion:

  • Fish passage into Reneke Creek
  • Horses—if allowed, they could transport invasive species on their shoes or in their feed
  • Keeping ATVs out
  • Walking and accessibility—disabled access could result in serious impacts
  • Where are the entry points? 
  • How big should the parking lots be?
  • Enlargement of the bridge to Whalen Island—may affect tidal influence on the spit to
  • Use by birdwatchers 
  • Preserving unique botanical properties of the site
  • Access for school children
  • Locations of restrooms
  • Park hosts—would they be needed, and if so, where located? 

A final series of meetings, probably in March, 2016, will present a draft of the master plan for public review.

For more information, to comment if you are unable to attend meetings, or to be placed on the distribution list for future notification, contact Ben Hedstrom of State Parks at (503) 986-0745, [email protected].  Contact him by mail through the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, 725 Summer St., N.E., Suite C, Salem, OR  97301.

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