A new app through Molalla River Watch allows visitors to the Molalla River Corridor to help keep things clean, safe and intact

FILE PHOTO - Photo illustration

Having more eyes on the prize, that is the Molalla River Corridor, is going to help keep things cleaner and safer moving forward. That's the hope of John Atkins, president of the Molalla River Alliance, as a growing group of volunteers are helping the Bureau of Land Management look after the assets the corridor offers people who love the outdoors. And they are using technology to do it. Atkins said that with the BLM short-handed due to a hiring freeze, the normal monitoring of the corridor's camping and recreation areas isn't available this year. So, with the help of a newly developed mobile phone app, he's hoping he and fellow volunteers can fill in the gap. "We just wanted to put some more eyes out there to help the BLM out," Atkins said. The new app, created by First Incident Response of Quebec, Canada, lets observers pinpoint and report on activity such as vandalism, illegal acts or other things that can damage the corridor. Circumstances dictated that something needed to be done, and the new Molalla River Incident Report App could make a big difference. "It came about because the BLM district office in Salem is short-handed; all of the federal agencies are short-handed right now. They are really lacking sufficient manpower to patrol their recreation assets, including Molalla River Recreation Corridor," said Atkins. "Because of that lack of supervision, last summer there was no one to host the campsites that have been developed in the corridor, no admission or fee for the campsites, and a lack of patrol supervision in the corridor as well. There has been vandalism, dumping, damage and so forth throughout the corridor, including camping in some of the spaces that were under restoration that were closed off for rehabilitation." This past spring, the BLM announced they would not open the campsites at all this summer. Fortunately, the Molalla River Alliance and Molalla River Watch, two local nonprofits, didn't sit idly by. They offered to patrol the corridor with volunteers – people would simply observe and report, not take enforcement action.

FILE PHOTO - Photo illustration "We requested that the campsites be reopened for the weekends. The theory was that the Molalla River Corridor is so popular that people were going to camp there anyway," Atkins said. "They'd find a place to throw up a tent and build a fire. Without any actual supervision going on, that's a fairly dangerous proposition. There was also a concern that there would be camping going on in areas that had been closed for rehabilitation efforts." Molalla River Watch offered to do some volunteer patrolling and the BLM said they'd give it a try. In trying to get patrols organized, it occurred to Atkins that there needed to be some way of reporting on a consistent basis to the managers in Salem. After using an Adobe Acrobat program that proved clunky and somewhat unreliable, Atkins went looking for something else. He found First Incident Response, who would develop a program that was smartphone-friendly and simple to use. "We contacted them and they were very receptive. They helped me think through all the information and how to organize it," Atkins said. "They offered to develop a mobile app for use on smartphones. I was pleased with the response, but also kind of wary -- these can run into a lot of money. Cost was a consideration." And that's where the project takes a fun turn. The president of First Incident Response was so on board with the goal of the project, he didn't charge Molalla River Alliance a dime – they would donate the app to the effort. "It knocked me over," Atkins said of the generosity. After some test trials, the app was deemed ready and given to volunteers on Aug. 19. "We now have a way of filling out the form online and since there is no cell phone availability in the corridor, the information is retained until you get to a cell phone area and then relayed immediately to the BLM. You can attach a photo, too," Atkins said. Additionally, the program provides GPS coordinates to pinpoint where the incident happened. Atkins added that he's eager to add more eyes to the effort, noting that there are some equestrian groups that are helping out (the corridor has 35 miles of equestrian trails). Anyone who'd like to volunteer to keep an eye on the Molalla River Recreation Corridor can contact Atkins via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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