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Volunteer group to regularly clean up Ochoco Viewpoint, which has been closed due to volume of trash at the site

RAMONA MCCALLISTER - A local group of community members gathered on Tuesday, July 7 to set up a maintenance plan for the Ochoco View Point State Park area. From left: Matt Levi, Dylan Levi, Renee Moss, Amanda Luelling, Stanley Flynn, Kim Daniels, Seth Crawford and Mike Simonsen.

When state parks began to reopen from their COVID-related closures, one just outside of Prineville remained closed.

The gate to the Ochoco Viewpoint remained locked. Did it not make the approved list for whatever reason? If so, what was the issue?

Turns out it had nothing to do with the pandemic – at least not directly. The problem is, due to COVID-prompted staff reductions, Oregon State Parks lacks enough local personnel to maintain adequate trash cleanup at the facility.

This issue was revealed early this month after local resident Heather Frasier approached Crook County Judge Seth Crawford, wondering why access to the gate was still locked. Other parks that draw larger numbers had opened, so what's going on?

Crawford did some research and after finding out about the cleanup issue, he reported back to Frasier. It quickly spurred an idea.

"I said we need to get some kind of committee together to get it open, if that would work," Frasier said.

A plan begin to form. Crawford and Frasier both posted the idea to their respective Facebook pages. Before long, Frasier's phone was ringing off the hook with potential helpers. Meanwhile, Crawford reached out to the Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce to see if they could help.

"He came to me with this idea," recalls Kim Daniels, the chamber's executive director, noting that Crawford wanted the organization to help form a group of volunteers who could visit the viewpoint on a regular basis and clean up the area. They would check and make sure the parking lot is clean, walk the nearby pathways and empty the trash cans if they were full.

Those involved in the emerging volunteer effort sat on the idea through the Fourth of July weekend and met the following Tuesday with Mike Simonsen, who oversees the viewpoint, and a few other interested parties. Simonsen gave the group a rundown of what cleaning was needed and how to do it.

The Friends of the Viewpoint was born. Volunteers sign up at the chamber office and pick different days to head up to the park and pick up whatever trash they find. After they finish, they are invited to jump on the group's Facebook page and let everyone know what work they got done. Ideally, someone will visit and clean the site daily and allow the viewpoint to remain open.

The effort is new, so some details are not yet set in stone. Currently, volunteers have been instructed to bring the trash from full garbage cans at the viewpoint down to the chamber office to be kept next to the building's outdoor cans. But that plan is likely temporary.

"I am working with State Parks to see if we can get another can or dumpster at the viewpoint," Daniels said.

Crawford praised the formation of the new group, calling it "another example of how Crook County works so well together."

"When there is an issue, they band together and come up with a solution that will really take care of the folks in our community," he said.

And Frasier is thrilled to not only see the viewpoint reopen but see so many people step up to make it happen.

"I am very excited," she said.


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