Camp Wilkerson timber sale buoys county's parks budget
Approximately 16 acres of forest at Columbia County's Camp Wilkerson will be cleared in the coming months, helping to lessen the county parks department's operating deficit.
Within Camp Wilkerson's 280 acres, the county "identified four outside corners that were divided off with the logging road system that surrounds that property. They are areas that you wouldn't even notice when you're in Camp Wilkerson," said Casey Garrett, director of the county's facilities and parks.
County commissioners approved the contract with Stimson Lumber Co. on April 17.
Stimson Lumber operates seven lumber mills in Oregon and Idaho, including one in Clatskanie.
"We were happy to see a local company bid," Garrett said.
The $411,697 contract gives Stimson Lumber until Sept. 1 to clear the 16 acres.
The parks department regularly harvests and replants timber to counteract its consistent operating deficit.
In the proposed budget for fiscal year 2019, the county wrote that, based on predictions of future timber harvests, "future budget shortfalls are imminent." But, the budget document adds, "Further evaluation of Camp Wilkerson has shown increased opportunity for low-impact, selective harvest that will make the forest healthier, and expand upon our sustainable yield program."
Increasing the department's budget through new or increased taxes "would be great, but those aren't very realistic things anymore," Garrett said at an April 26 parks meeting. "I don't know if they ever will be. But there are things we can do to maintain sustainability and continue to expand access."
The sale at Camp Wilkerson "fills out [the] operational funding gap for two to three years," Garrett said.
A smaller timber harvest took place a few years ago at Camp Wilkerson, but that harvest was part of improvements to the site, rather than a source of income for park operations, according to Garrett.
Additional future harvests may occur as a result of a root rot disease scattered throughout the Camp Wilkerson property, he added.
To stop the spread of root rot, portions of the forest will need to be cleared and replanted with different trees that are not susceptible to the disease.