4A ● APPEAL TRIBUNE WEDNESDAY, APRIL 12, 2017 Life in the Valley y email@example.com ZACH URNESS / STATESMAN JOURNAL Three Pools Recreation Site is seen on a fairly slow day in summer. Under new proposed rules, alcohol would be banned at the site. Eight things to know about proposed recreation rules Forest Service aims to address crowding, drunken behavior ZACH URNESS STATESMAN JOURNAL U.S. Forest Service officials an- nounced the first step toward address- ing overcrowding and drunken behavior at some of Oregon’s most iconic outdoor places. Officials laid out a series of new rules and regulations for Three Pools Recrea- tion Site, Opal Creek Trail, Elk Lake and Breitenbush River east of Salem. The goal is to provide relief for places impacted by large crowds, drunken be- havior and damage to the natural envi- ronment. Now they want the public’s in- put. “We’re trying the least-restrictive management techniques to start,” said Josh Weathers, developed recreation manager for Willamette National Forest. “We still want people to come up and en- joy these places, but we want to encour- age more responsible use and stop places from being ‘loved to death.’” A story on the proposed rules ap- peared on the front page of the States- man Journal’s March 28 edition, but many readers had questions about the details and queries such as “who will en- force these rules?” and “why is my favor- ite place suddenly so crowded?” Here are a few answers. What are the rules, in a nutshell? Three Pools: Alcohol would be banned and only people parking in the site’s 94-space lot would be allowed into the popular swimming holes northeast of Mehama. Opal Creek Trail: Campfires would be banned at most backpacking campsites along Opal Creek Trail, near Jawbone Flats and up Kopetski Trail. Parking would be limited to a quarter mile down Forest Service Road 2209 from the Opal Creek Gate Trailhead. Elk Lake, Breitenbush River, French Creek, Blowout Creek: Dispersed camping — user-created sites not part of an official campground — would be ille- gal for larger area along roads that ac- cess these waterbodies. Why these type of rules? The Forest Service is basically look- ing for a middle way to deal with overuse and bad behavior. Instead of limiting crowds with a per- mit system — or capping the number of visitors allowed — they propose limiting parking spaces. They hope it achieves the same goal. The ban on alcohol has worked well at other popular sites, such as Terwilliger Hot Springs and the Clackamas River corridor, Weathers said. Getting rid of about 50 to 60 of the most problematic dispersed campsites — especially in popular recreation corri- dors like Breitenbush River near Detroit — helps encourage day use while still leaving open vast swaths of Willamette National Forest for dispersed camping, Weathers said. What would the penalty of breaking the rules be? Violating the alcohol ban: $200 Violating the campfire ban: $250 Violating dispersed camping ban: $100 Violating parking rules: $50 Each fine would also carry a $35 proc- essing fee. Who would enforce the rules? Willamette National Forest has 10 rangers who can issue citations but who are not armed. It has two officers who are armed and are trained for more con- frontational situations. The Forest Service also has relation- ships with deputies from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office who can assist, especially in the Three Pools and Opal Creek area. “We have a deputy that patrols the Lit- tle North Santiam canyon, and if they called for help, we would assist the best we were able,” said Lt. Chris Baldridge of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. “We also have intergovernmental agree- ments where we’re able to enforce the rules of a (federal) agency. In this case, we would take a look at it if they pro- posed it.” Weathers said the Forest Service would seek that type of intergovernmen- tal agreement if the rules are approved. Meaning, there’s a chance county depu- ties could enforce Forest Service rules. How can I make my voice heard? You can make a comment that the For- est Service will consider in shaping these rules at https://cara.ecosystem- management.org/Public/CommentInput ?project=51339. The deadline for making a comment is April 14. If approved, when would these new rules go into effect? STATESMAN JOURNAL FILE Opal Creek Trail passes Jawbones Flats, which was built in the 1930s and was an old mining town. Under new proposed rules, campfires would be banned at most backpacking campsites along Opal Creek Trail, near Jawbone Flats and up Kopetski Trail. They would be in place this summer, likely beginning Memorial Day — May 29. A decision is likely by May 1. How bad is the problem? That depends on how you view it. In winter, and during much of late autumn and spring, crowds are sparse. During the height of summer, from mid-June to mid-August, it’s a different story. Hot summer days bring hundreds of people to Three Pools, a relatively small area. Opal Creek has the same problem. Both sites have seen drug use, heavy drinking and irresponsible camp- ing, officials said. The main problem at dispersed camp- sites along Breitenbush and the other rivers and creeks is human waste wash- ing into streams and damage to vegeta- tion. Those sites also discourage day-use visitors, Weathers said. “As our beautiful forest becomes more popular, we find there are a few lo- cations that are not able to withstand the impacts from visitors,” District Ranger Grady McMahan said. “In addition to lit- ter and human waste, irresponsible drinking is a problem at Three Pools Day Use Area, specifically. We want all peo- ple to feel welcome to come enjoy their forest; that means asking everyone to be- have considerately of others and the land.” What’s causing the increase in visitors? Population growth in the Willamette Valley, unusually hot summers and lots of attention from social media and tradi- tional media outlets have created a per- fect storm for places like Three Pools and Opal Creek. Weathers said visitors frequently travel from Portland’s metro area to visit Three Pools and Opal Creek, inspired by “best swimming holes” lists posted by media companies and spread through so- cial media. The social media website In- stagram, in particular, has driven people to the Little North Fork canyon seeking pictures to post. The Statesman Journal, along with The Oregonian, Willamette Week, Out- door Project, OnlyInYourState.com and countless magazines and websites have all featured stories about recreating at Three Pools and Opal Creek. The in- crease in visitors to outdoor destina- tions, in Oregon and the West, has been a well-documented trend spanning state parks, national parks and federal lands. Zach Urness has been an outdoors writer, photographer and videographer in Oregon for eight years. He is the author of the book “Hiking Southern Oregon” and can be reached at zurness@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6801. Find him on Twitter at @ZachsORoutdoors.