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Goal of contest is to gather input on what the lake and area means to the community

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Photos of Walton Lake will be judged on Oct. 15 and two winners will be announced.

What does Walton Lake mean to you and your family?

The Ochoco Forest Restoration Collaborative wants to know and are reaching out to local residents in the form of a photography contest.

The group is asking people to enter their best photo of the lake along with a 50-word essay about what the lake and surrounding area means to them and their loved ones. The deadline to enter is Oct. 1 and on Oct. 15, the winners will be unveiled at a special meeting.

The collaborative meets on a monthly basis and is comprised of anywhere between 40 and 50 people, depending on when a count is taken.

"The collaborative is a diverse group of stakeholders who work together to create and implement a shared vision to improve the resilience and well-being of the forest and the socioeconomic opportunities in and around the Ochoco mountains," said member Michelle McSwain. "The idea is to get voices from all diverse groups that have an interest in the forest and use a science-based approach to learn together about what the situation is, what the issues are and the different treatment methods in order to restore the forests, which are fire-adapted forest ecosystems, back into a more natural, health and resilient forest."

The group includes members of the timber industry, representatives from conservation groups and local government officials.

The photo contest is a first for the collaborative and was spurred by a request on the part of Ochoco National Forest to help them with issues at Walton Lake. Trees in the area are suffering from laminated root rot, which causes the roots to decay and the tree to fall over without warning.

"The Forest Service asked us to help after they had put out a NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) document that was challenged legally," McSwain said. "The Forest Service asked us to look at it and help them with the project." The collaborative agreed to help and took a deep dive into the science and policies affecting the area, concluding that solutions constituted a trade-off between public safety and visual aesthetics.

"Walton Lake is the second-highest visited recreation area on Ochoco National Forest," McSwain stressed. "It is very beloved and has been used by families and people for generations. It is a beautiful area that is managed specifically for recreation, which has an emphasis on visual aesthetics."

Given that the collaborative is more science-based in their approach and that the issue had a strong social component, they felt it prudent to help the Forest Service reach out to the general public for their input.

"We thought a really fun way to do it would be to have a photo contest," McSwain said, adding that the collaborative came up with some other alternatives for the Forest Service to analyze that would speak to some of the aesthetic and social aspects of the project.

Those entering the contest are asked to write up to 50 words about what Walton Lake means to them and their family, provide an approximate date the photo was taken, include a name, phone number and email address as well as the names of anyone in the picture. Entries can either be scanned and emailed to HYPERLINK "mailto:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or they can be taken to the museum and scanned there. The deadline to enter is Oct. 1.

The collaborative will hold a special meeting at the museum two weeks later, (Oct. 15, 6-7:30 p.m.) where they will unveil the photos, judge them, and select two winner. Each winner will receive a $50 gift certificate to Club Pioneer.

But the photo contest conclusion is just one of three meeting components. The event will start with a presentation by museum historian, Steve Lent, on the history of Walton Lake. McSwain stressed that this presentation will be longer and more thorough than one Lent gave on the same subject in June.

In addition, the Forest Service will take time to discuss their draft alternatives for the Walton Lake project and give an update on the timeframe for the NEPA process and how members of the public can further engage in feedback on the project.

"We are really hopeful we have a good turnout for the photo contest as well as the Oct. 15 meeting," McSwain concluded.


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