Commission tours proposed wilderness area
Climb Wagner Mountain, visit Young Life camps
After a two-hour drive and half-hour hike, Jefferson County commissioners and other officials were able to take in the panoramic views from one of two proposed wilderness areas last week.
"It was very impressive," said Commissioner John Hatfield, who found the roads leading out there Gosner and Muddy Creek roads "more rustic than I remembered; they're not even gravel roads, just dirt roads."
Hatfield, Commission Chairman Wayne Fording, Commissioner Mike Ahern and County Administrator Jeff Rasmussen were accompanied by Wayne Kinney, of Sen. Ron Wyden's office, and Susanna Julber, of Sen. Jeff Merkley's office, as well as Matt Smith, the owner of Cherry Creek Ranch, located near the intersection of the two roads.
County officials Mike McHaney, Tom Machala and Dana Lundy, the directors of the County Public Works, Public Health and Buildings and Grounds departments (respectively), Chet Singleton of the County Community Development, Mike Mamic, county GIS coordinator, and Melody Zistel of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office also joined the caravan out to property owned by Young Life Washington Family Ranch, some of which would be traded to the Bureau of Land Management for the proposed Cathedral Rock Wilderness area.
"It was nice to get out there and see the area we've been talking about and see where the access might be," said Fording, referring to the proposal for the 8,322-acre Cathedral Rock Wilderness area, which has been introduced in the U.S. Senate, as part of the Oregon Treasures Act of 2013.
At a commission meeting April 24, area residents once again expressed their interest in keeping Muddy Creek Road open, and having access to the proposed wilderness. Under the current proposal, the Bureau of Land Management would trade away the Wagner Mountain access point to Young Life, which wants Muddy Creek Road to be gated.
"I don't think the commission's changed their stance or anything," said Fording. "If we're going to do this wilderness area for public benefit, why not make it accessible to the public? We're still where we were at the last meeting."
Ahern agreed, noting, "I want to see the wilderness go through; I just think there's no way the county can give up on having public access on Muddy Creek Road."
After the hike up Wagner Mountain, everyone except the press was invited to visit Young Life's camps.
"It was very impressive," said Ahern. "They have a long-term commitment and wonderful facilities."
Young Life operates two Christian camps for young people, the high school camp "Canyon," which opened in 1999, and the $34 million middle school camp "Creekside," which opened in 2011.
Hatfield said that the new junior high camp has 384 beds, a water park, cafetorium and meeting room. "Wow," he said. "Their goal is to make it the funnest week of the kids' life and to expose them to the gospel."
Young Life would also like to build another camp in Jefferson County, and has introduced legislation to allow the nonprofit to build on low-value exclusive farm use lands, he pointed out.
All three commissioners found the visit to Wagner Mountain, near the entrance to the proposed Cathedral Rock Wilderness, and the Young Life facilities informative.
"I'm really proud of our county for wanting to be boots on the ground," said Ahern.