By July, the Ecola Creek Forest Reserve will have a management plan, determining its future. Questions to be answers include: Will hunters dot the landscape? Will there be mountain bikers zipping through? Will some of the trees be thinned in order to re-create an old growth forest structure? Should dogs be leashed?
In 2011, Cannon Beach added 805 acres to its Ecola Creek Forest Reserve, bringing the Ecola Creek Forest Reserve’s size to 1,025 acres. City Council appointed 10 people to a committee to work with staff and consultants to develop a management plan for the whole property. The 10 members represent different backgrounds and views, including watershed council/environmental science, planning, hunting, and non-consumptive recreation (walking/biking).
Up to now, the committee has been information gathering and has made some preliminary decisions by consensus. They have met approximately 16 times. They have had public comment at each meeting. They have held three open house events to share information and gather community input. They sent out a community survey and tabulated the results. They took a tour of the Ellsworth Preserve on Willapa Bay, managed by The Nature Conservancy. There, they learned about restoring forests to more natural old growth through different levels of timber extraction. They have had a number of information speakers, including someone speaking about fish from OR Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), as well as a state trooper and ODFW staff talking about hunting. They have a crew of consultants with backgrounds in wildlife, fish, trails, and restoration timber.
Now, it is time for the challenging part. They are in the process of making final decisions. The most controversial topics so far include: whether to allow hunting, whether they should remove a road on a dike that runs across the West and North Forks and their floodplain, and the location and type of trails. Other decisions revolve around tree thinning (for more natural forest structure), fishing, horses, dogs (leashes?), and the gathering of forest products (mushrooms, ferns, salal, etc.).
On many of these topics, the group is split. This is especially true on the hunting issue. The group is getting pressure from all sides, including City Councilor Nancy Giasson and ODFW staff, who have written letters encouraging the group to allow hunting. So, community input is critical. Anyone that is interested is welcome to attend upcoming meetings and give comment. One may also send letters to the committee. Send to: Alisha Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org – Attn: EFRAC