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MERA (mount emily recreation area)
Mt. Emily Rec area opens
Written by Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer June 19, 2009 03:43 pm
Today, with little fanfare but a lot of relief on the part of those who helped make it happen, the MERA saw its official opening.
“It’s a good project, good work, and I commend everybody who has been involved in it,” County Commissioner Nellie Hibbert said this week as the board of commissioners formally adopted an ordinance spelling out rules and regulations for the area.
The county purchased the 3,600-acre MERA property last year from Forest Capital Partners, using a $4.4 million grant from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department’s ATV program. The deal was closed following a lengthy public process that included public hearings and community meetings.
Two recreational advisory committees, one for motorized use and the other for non-motorized use, were appointed to help in the planning. As weather improved this spring, local volunteers took to the woods and made things ready.
MERA Coordinator Cody Vavra said a local ATV club has been working hard to prepare the area for opening.
A good deal of time has been spent clearing brush and opening and marking trails. Work will intensify after more grant money comes in for the project July 1.
Vavra said club member Art Chase has been especially helpful, donating time and equipment in the effort to establish barriers around wetlands that have been damaged over the years and need rehabilitation.
“We’re working hard to protect those wetlands, getting them blocked off and marked with signs,” Vavra said.
The MERA stretches from Fox Hill Road on the west end of Mount Emily to a point near Igo Lane to the east. In between is a network of trails that accommodate ATVs, off-road vehicles, bicyclists and horses, depending on the designation.
A sign board has been built at the park’s main staging area on Fox Hill Road. Posted is information about the MERA, including rules and regulations. A box affixed to the board is well-stocked with MERA maps.
The Fox Hill access point will be improved as time goes on, with Forest Capital playing a key role. Forest Capital is donating manpower and equipment to grade the parking area and build campsites.
“They’re paying for that 100 percent,” Vavra said.
The Fox Hill landing is the only place in the MERA where overnight camping will be allowed. Two day-use areas are being constructed, one where Owsley Canyon Road meets Mount Emily Road, and another at the upper end of Igo Lane.
Though the MERA is open for use this summer, recreationists are in for some inconvenience due to Forest Capital logging operations.
The company will harvest timber on three units beginning June 20 and continuing through the fall. Some roads and trails will be closed Mondays through Fridays, though all will be open on weekends.
Appropriate signs will be posted, said County Planning Director Hanley Jenkins.
“We encourage patience,” he said.
Drivers on the MERA will need to be extra cautious due to the presence of log trucks. The main hauling routes will be Fox Hill Road, Igo Lane and Owsley Canyon Road.
The county board of commissioners held a hearing and gave final approval Thursday to an ordinance governing use of the area. Vavra summarized the main points.
He said rules applying to motorized uses closely follow state statutes. ATV stickers will be required and Class I and III ATVs must be equipped with spark arrestors.
Motorized use is restricted to the designated trails. People causing environmental damage are subject to some heavy penalties. Fines may be for three times the amount of damage caused.
Fires may be built only in designated areas and fireworks are prohibited. Hunting is allowed according to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife rules, but target shooting anywhere on the property is forbidden.
Mike Gooderham, a resident of Blackhawk Trail Lane, testified during Thursday’s hearing. He said he likes the ordinance in general but sees some need for fine-tuning. He said he has concerns about traffic on county roads in and around the area.
“I’d like the ordinance to be a living document that we can massage and improve on,” he said.
The board agreed.
“I appreciate the comments,” Hibbert said. “I especially agree with the idea that this is a living document. As time goes on, we can add amendments.”
North East Oregon 4 Wheelers, PR officer
MEMBER OF: blue ribbon coalition, tread lightly,
Thanks for putting up the article. I knew they were working on the area.
Now we need to get Wallowa-Whitman to tie in some trails in their desigination process to provide routes to the NF from MERA.
W-W has complegted the Draft process and is compiling comments in preparation of the Final, so we might still have a chance this go around to get something.
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