Facing $10 million backlog, Gifford Pinchot National Forest invi - KPTV - FOX 12

Facing $10 million backlog, Gifford Pinchot National Forest invites input on rec sites

Posted: Updated:
KPTV photo. KPTV photo.

Along the Little White Salmon River, Moss Creek Campground is a small, idyllic spot to escape and enjoy nature in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

But the recreational site has seen better days–half of the campground’s water services don't work and many bathrooms are worn out, with wood frames starting to rot.

Making the fixes will cost tens of thousands of dollars. Forest Service data shows Moss Creek Campground is operating with $35,000 in deferred maintenance.

It’s just a drop in the bucket of the total of more than $10 million of backlogged maintenance spread across the three districts: the Cowlitz Valley Ranger District, the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and the Mount Adams Ranger District.

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest also faces a $700,000 budget shortfall.

“Right now we’ve been just spreading our resources really thin and trying to do a little bit of everything everywhere,” Mount Adams District Ranger Emily Platt said Thursday. “It hasn’t been effective because we miss out on things like taking care of the water system [at Moss Creek Campground].”

Managers of the forest system said shrinking budgets and more expensive operating costs have plagued them for years, but now leaders will come up with a new management plan.

“Ideally, at the end of this process, we’ll be able to better invest in the sites we know we want to keep,” Platt said.

FOX 12 took a closer look at Forest Service data regarding the 210 recreational sites within the three districts. More than 60 percent of sites don’t have proper funding, and 35 percent of sites are not maintained to Forest Service standards.

Popular areas like Johnston’s Ridge Observatory and Coldwater Lake sites are some of the costlier places to operate.

Johnston’s Ridge Observatory has more than $1.6 million in deferred maintenance. Between several sites and facilities, the backlog of projects at Coldwater is nearly $5 million.

“We’re just always hoping that something major and catastrophic doesn’t happen that we have to close sites until we can fix them,” Forest Service Recreation Manager Robin Rose said.

The Forest Service is looking at several possible solutions, including raising recreational usage fees, reducing or contracting out services, forming new partnerships and, possibly, permanently shutting down a few sites.

“It’s not the first thing I want to consider,” Rose said, referring to any future closures. “It’s almost the last thing I want to consider.”

Recreational visitors said they are most worried about reduced access in the forest.

“My concerns are they’re closing down the forest for public access, and I don’t feel this is right,” John Hubner said. “If it’s necessary to raise the fees–but keep the areas open–I think that would be a good way to go.”

Jackie Heisinger said she spent years as a camp host in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Heisinger said recreational areas are already crowded, and she worries visitors will really feel the squeeze if some areas close. She said she’d rather see more campgrounds and sites added, and wouldn’t mind paying a bit more for services and access.

“Don’t shut the campground down, please,” Heisinger said.

The Forest Service will release a draft proposal of changes in the fall. Leaders hope to start making some of the changes next year. They expect to fully implement the new management plan within five years.

The Forest Service is seeking input from the public through June 30.

“We really need to know what’s important to people, what they want to see out here, which places they value, and want to make sure we’re investing in,” Platt said.

To learn more about possible solutions and to fill out a survey on the topic visit: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/giffordpinchot/home/?cid=FSEPRD578910

Copyright 2018 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation.  All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly
FOX 12
Powered by WorldNow CNN
All content © 2018, KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation, Portland, OR . All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.