After reading the letter to the editor complaining about the city of Hermiston clearing the area upstream from Riverfront Park, I felt it would be remiss of me not to set the record straight.
For starters, the statement that the area had been protected from human encroachment for at least 80 years was not true. In the early 1980s Dr. John Page was on a Fish and Wildlife committee and discovered they were looking for someone to manage this 7 acre parcel. Management was to involved the removal of invasive species. John thought our Boy Scout Troop 654 could handle this. John was the assistant scoutmaster and I was the scoutmaster. John arranged for some farmer to push the brush into piles and the scouts did the final piling and burning. The place looked much like it does now.
In 1982 we realized this was probably not going to be self-sustaining. We then gave John’s son, John Alan Page, the area to be used for an Eagle Project in 1983. It was determined the area could be developed into a park and Umatilla County would administer it. The arrangements were made to develop Steelhead Park. The boy scouts developed it. The county supplied the tables, fire rings, toilets and garbage service. The scouts would provide assistance where appropriate. This included periodic removal of invasive plants and the mowing of paths. This plan continued until about 2000 when the county closed the park due to drug problems. As a result the property reverted back to the Fish and Wildlife.
Several hundred Boy Scouts last used this property and the adjacent property of Roger Bounds to hold a district wide camporee in 2002. At the time our environmental project was to remove the invasive trees and pile them. That is now the smaller piles came into existence. The bigger piles were trees the Fish and Wildlife piled to be burned at a later date. It never happened. Over the ensuing years the invasive species again flourished.
Over the years the Park and Rec Committee has had the parcel of land on their radar. Because of more pressing issues it has remained on the back burner. Now with the plan of a bicycle path to run through a corner of the property it seemed appropriate to pursue securing this property. Title was obtained about 6 months ago. Consideration for this involves the construction of a boat launch and good stewardship of the property. Several months ago a representative of the Oregon State Urban Forestry Department as called in.
She concurred with the city’s plan to remove the invasive species and with the planting of appropriate native plants, if available.
It was discovered that the homeless had made extensive use of the property and their garbage was a problem. The city determined they would haul away nonburnable debris and the rest would be pushed into piles and burned with invasive trees. This is currently being done.
The city plans to complete the removal and burning of the invasive trees. They will need to prepare the land for seeding with appropriate grass and plants. As this progresses, volunteers may help by picking up the small woody materials found in the construction site. As things develop the city expects to plot soft natural paths to include trails to fishing sites and nature viewing places. If you wish to be involved you may contact the city Park and Rec Department at 541-667-5018.